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[swich-bak] /ˈswɪtʃˌbæk/
a highway, as in a mountainous area, having many hairpin curves.
Railroads. a zigzag track arrangement for climbing a steep grade.
British. roller coaster.
verb (used without object)
(of a road, railroad track, etc.) to progress through a series of hairpin curves; zigzag:
The road switchbacks up the mountain.
Origin of switchback
1860-65, Americanism; switch + back2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for switchback
Historical Examples
  • And the numbers run down a switchback of sound as each man shouts his own.

    The Relief of Mafeking Filson Young
  • Alexander remarked as they rounded another turn on the switchback path.

    The Lani People J. F. Bone
  • Three thousand feet that switchback went straight up in the air.

    Tenting To-night Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • I felt as if once again I were strapped in the car on the switchback railway.

    Marie Tarnowska Annie Vivanti
  • The major saw reason fairly quickly, so we bestrode our horses again and continued our switchback course.

  • The car on the switchback rushes, whirls, plungesfalls with me to destruction.

    Marie Tarnowska Annie Vivanti
  • The minutes were uncomfortably long, he felt as if he were on a switchback, or in the throes of approaching sea-sickness.

    Dry Fish and Wet Anthon Bernhard Elias Nilsen
  • But he was a strong horse, and on a trail up a switchback—do you know what a switchback is?

    Through Glacier Park Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • As for the Ponte Vecchio, it was turned into a switchback railway at last, but it never paid.

  • Before the tunnel was built you crossed in the open air by a switchback line.

    From Sea to Sea Rudyard Kipling
British Dictionary definitions for switchback


a mountain road, railway, or track which rises and falls sharply many times or a sharp rise and fall on such a road, railway, or track
another word (esp Brit) for big dipper
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for switchback

reference to zig-zag railways, 1863, from switch (v.) + back (adv.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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