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whip·​saw ˈ(h)wip-ˌsȯ How to pronounce whipsaw (audio)
: a narrow pit saw averaging 5 to 7¹/₂ feet (1.5 to 2.3 meters) in length


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whipsawed; whipsawing; whipsaws

transitive verb

: to saw with a whipsaw
: 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

Did you know?

A whipsaw is a type of hand-powered saw 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 19th century 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 as well as ideological changes (as in government policy) that might "cut."

Examples of whipsaw in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
As climate change drives more extreme weather conditions — meaning a worsening whipsaw of droughts and flooding — how will the state protect and improve vital water supplies? Ryan Fonseca, Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr. 2024 With inflation fading, instead of cutting interest rates right away, Powell is attempting to slowly lower rates over time to avoid the type of whipsaw monetary policy that can spark recessions. Will Daniel, Fortune, 6 Feb. 2024 Addressing his whipsaw week, Zuckerberg said in a post Thursday that he was focused on the long term. David Ingram, NBC News, 4 Feb. 2024 This year’s new voters, Millennial and Generation Z types who have come of age during an era of whipsaw politics – the Great Recession, followed by Barack Obama, followed by Trump and the pandemic and, finally, Biden – could be similarly transformative. Andre Mouchard, Orange County Register, 4 Feb. 2024 Big swings in the price of natural gas whipsaw producers. Bob Henderson, WSJ, 30 Oct. 2023 Along with all the classic challenges of growing up—grades, parents, first loves—looms a crop of newer ones: TikTok, gun violence, political division, the whipsaw of COVID-19, the not-so-slow creep of climate change. TIME, 10 Oct. 2023 As of Tuesday's close: Stocks finished little changed after a whipsaw session. WSJ, 17 Oct. 2023 And then came yet another whipsaw, back to drought. Brooke Jarvis, New York Times, 31 May 2023
Sky-high interest rates and brutally burdensome inflation have coalesced into an ominous combination that has whipsawed commercial property owners in the Bay Area and nationwide. George Avalos, The Mercury News, 21 Mar. 2024 Here’s a great piece from this week: Running along the trails that whipsaw through the oak forests of the Palo Alto hills, a reporter was hit with a musky, skunky smell that made the hair on her neck stand up. Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times, 3 Mar. 2024 The pound whipsawed after the release, briefly falling to a day’s low of $1.27 before erasing losses. Tom Rees, Fortune Europe, 20 Mar. 2024 Markets have whipsawed between new highs and precipitous drops as contrasting economic data cause confusion about what the Fed will do next. Nicole Goodkind, CNN, 6 Mar. 2024 Baby Boom Precedent Thirty-three-year-olds could also whipsaw the job market. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, 2 Mar. 2024 Explore our new section The wet weather and improved snowpack mean that California appears headed for a less-extreme water year after whipsawing from three years of severe drought to one of the wettest years on record. Ian James, Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb. 2024 Nvidia shares whipsawed in early after-hours trading as investors digested the numbers, before rising more than 10% by 5 p.m. ET. Will Daniel, Fortune, 21 Feb. 2024 Throughout the 1970s and after, these debates whipsawed U.S. policy. Hal Brands, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'whipsaw.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near whipsaw

Cite this Entry

“Whipsaw.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whipsaw. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

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