whip·​saw | \ ˈhwip-ˌsȯ How to pronounce whipsaw (audio) , ˈwip-\

Definition of whipsaw

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a narrow pit saw averaging 5 to 7¹/₂ feet (1.5 to 2.3 meters) in length


whipsawed; whipsawing; whipsaws

Definition of whipsaw (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to saw with a whipsaw
2 : to beset or victimize in two opposite ways at once, by a two-phase operation, or by the collusive action of two opponents wage earners were whipsawed by inflation and high taxes

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Did You Know?


A whipsaw is a type of handsaw worked by two people, one of whom stands on or above the log being sawed and the other below it, usually in a pit. The tool dates back to the 15th century, but it was not until the 1870s that anyone thought to use the saw's name figuratively to describe situations in which someone or something is doubly "cut," or hurt. Today, the word is commonly used when discussing financial crises or losses. For example, just recently a chief executive explained in a press statement that his company was "whipsawed in the fourth quarter as key industries were hit by a rapidly deteriorating economy and plunging commodity prices." (The New York Times, January 27, 2009)

Examples of whipsaw in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Highlights Global Markets: U.S. stocks recovered Thursday after being sharply down most of the session, as this week’s whipsaw trading continued. Dan Molinski, WSJ, "Oil Declines Amid Volatile, Thin Trading," 27 Dec. 2018 Across Wall Street, traditional traders were mostly helpless, while the engineers best equipped to explain the whipsaw weren’t in a position to do anything about it. Liz Hoffman And Telis Demos, WSJ, "Wall Street Erases the Line Between Its Jocks and Nerds," 18 Aug. 2018 The Kepler wake-up whipsaw continues. NASA's Kepler space telescope, which has discovered more than 2,650 alien planets to date, emerged from yet another slumber Thursday (Oct. 11), agency officials said. Mike Wall, Space.com, "NASA's Kepler Planet-Hunting Space Telescope Wakes Up Again," 13 Oct. 2018 Bloomberg’s bond market reporter Brian Chappatta talks about the Treasury whipsaw with host Ramy Inocencio. Dana Pardini, Bloomberg.com, "Everything You Need to Know This Morning From Daybreak (Podcast)," 10 Jan. 2018 Democratic Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants the OTA back too, given the whipsaw pace of new tech arrivals. Clive Thompson, WIRED, "Why Congress Needs to Revive Its Tech Support Team," 13 July 2018 The whipsaw crest of the Rocky Mountains is visible from a hundred miles away. Porter Fox, Outside Online, "Exploring America's Forgotten Border," 1 June 2018 The rapid shift from provocative steps to summit diplomacy illustrates the whipsaw approach the President has adopted on the global stage. Jeremy Diamond And Kevin Liptak, CNN, "Sources: Trump sought to evacuate military families from South Korea before Olympics," 15 May 2018 Southern California is home to the largest Korean population outside of Asia and Ms. Kim is one of many Korean-Americans here feeling a whipsaw of emotions over the administration’s actions in recent days. Jennifer Medina, New York Times, "Awe, Gratitude, Fear: Conflicting Emotions for Korean-Americans in the Era of Trump," 10 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But using mathematical models to predict where markets are headed has been difficult as prices have been whipsawed by trade negotiations and mixed economic signals. Stephanie Yang, WSJ, "Computer Models to Investors: Short Everything," 9 Jan. 2019 Biotech investors are in neck braces from being whipsawed back and forth as the industry’s focal length moves in and out every few years. Andy Kessler, WSJ, "Stock Picking Is Like Time Travel," 13 Jan. 2019 And while Facebook, especially, has whipsawed marketers with ever-changing rules about how to reach customers—and how much Facebook will charge for the privilege—with email, a company owns its own lists. Christopher Mims, WSJ, "The Hot New Channel for Reaching Real People: Email," 19 Jan. 2019 The president’s enduring disputes have whipsawed Amazon’s stock price and injected some uncertainty into its status as a major Washington contractor. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "The 10-Point.," 6 Apr. 2018 Talk of cold snaps and polar vortices could whipsaw the market—particularly on Monday mornings, when the markets reopen to a new weather forecast. Spencer Jakab, WSJ, "Think Oil Has Been Volatile? Watch Natural Gas," 14 Nov. 2018 Of course, the easiest way to whipsaw across the country like this is with a tour operator: Try luxe outfit Roar Africa. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "Best Places to Visit in September," 25 July 2018 One of the few hedge funds to survive the downswing in the commodity supercycle has a lesson for traders trying to navigate whipsawing aluminum prices: go short at your peril. Mark Burton, Bloomberg.com, "Aluminum Bears on Treacherous Ground as Supply Shocks Continue," 27 Apr. 2018 When the market hasn’t been whipsawed by the trade drama, it’s found comfort in strong corporate earnings and U.S. economic growth. Washington Post, "Trade tremors: How tariffs, tough talk has unsettled markets," 8 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whipsaw.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of whipsaw


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

26 Apr 2019

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The first known use of whipsaw was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for whipsaw



Financial Definition of whipsaw

What It Is

A trader is said to be "whipsawed" when the price of a security suddenly moves in the opposite direction of a trade that he just placed.

How It Works

For instance, if a trader buys shares of Apple at $250/share, and over the course of the day the price drops to $230, the trader has been whipsawed.

Why It Matters

This usually occurs in a volatile market when traders are subjected to high risk. Short-term traders can be whipsawed often, but long term traders are likely to see better results over a longer time horizon.

Source: Investing Answers

More from Merriam-Webster on whipsaw

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whipsaw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whipsaw

Comments on whipsaw

What made you want to look up whipsaw? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a strong desire or propensity

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