roller coaster

noun
1.
a small gravity railroad, especially in an amusement park, having a train with open cars that moves along a high, sharply winding trestle built with steep inclines that produce sudden, speedy plunges for thrill-seeking passengers.
2.
a car or train of cars for such a railroad.
3.
any phenomenon, period, or experience of persistent or violent ups and downs, as one fluctuating between prosperity and recession or elation and despair.

Origin:
1885–90

Dictionary.com Unabridged

roller-coaster

[roh-ler-koh-ster, roh-li-]
verb (used without object)
1.
to go up and down like a roller coaster; rise and fall: a narrow road roller-coastering around the mountain; a light boat roller-coastering over the waves.
2.
to experience a period of prosperity, happiness, security, or the like, followed by a contrasting period of economic depression, despair, or the like: The economy was roller-coastering throughout most of the decade.
adjective
3.
of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a roller coaster.
4.
resembling the progress of a ride on a roller coaster in sudden extreme changeableness.

Origin:
1960–65

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
roller coaster
 
n
another term for big dipper

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

roller coaster

elevated railway with steep inclines and descents that carries a train of passengers through sharp curves and sudden changes of speed and direction for a brief thrill ride. Found mostly in amusement parks as a continuous loop, it is a popular leisure activity

Learn more about roller coaster with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
My program has been a wild roller coaster ride, both academically and
  personally, but it has been fun.
Expectant mothers aren't the only family members on a hormonal roller coaster.
Two g's is two times the acceleration of gravity, about what one experiences on
  a sharp loop on roller coaster.
He can design his own roller coaster and then test-ride a virtual version of it.
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