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[hahy-bawl] /ˈhaɪˌbɔl/
a drink of whiskey mixed with club soda or ginger ale and served with ice in a tall glass.
  1. a signal to start a train, given with the hand or with a lamp.
  2. a signal for a train to move at full speed.
Military Slang. a hand salute.
verb (used without object)
Slang. to move at full speed.
verb (used with object)
to signal to (the engineer of a train) to proceed.
Origin of highball
An Americanism dating back to 1880-85; high + ball1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for highball
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Joe finished his highball and came to his feet to get another one.

    Mercenary Dallas McCord Reynolds
  • Kennedy finished off his highball and began to build another immediately.

    Adaptation Dallas McCord Reynolds
  • I suppose you'll be wanting to join dear Mr. Frazer in a highball; you're such a pet of his.

    The Trail of the Hawk Sinclair Lewis
  • Next day, along about first-drink time, I felt a craving for a highball.

    Cutting It out Samuel G. Blythe
  • Sensing his need, I brought him a highball, and one for myself.

    The Chamber of Life Green Peyton Wertenbaker
  • Youre not drinking your highball, Mr. Denby, Alice observed.

    Under Cover Roi Cooper Megrue
  • No, I am not in a hurry; and it's such a disagreeable day you ought to have a highball.

    Cytherea Joseph Hergesheimer
  • I believe you had reached the highball incident in your recital.

    The Main Chance Meredith Nicholson
  • I don't know what a mashie is, but I do know what a highball bat is.

    The Lash Olin L. Lyman
British Dictionary definitions for highball


a long iced drink consisting of a spirit base with water, soda water, etc
(originally in railway use) a signal that the way ahead is clear and one may proceed
(intransitive) to move at great speed
(transitive) to drive (a vehicle) at great speed
Word Origin
C19: (in sense 2) from the early railway signal consisting of a ball hoisted to the top of a pole
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 highball

type of alcoholic drink, 1898, probably from ball "drink of whiskey;" high because it is served in a tall glass.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for highball



  1. A signal denoting a clear track or clearance to start or accelerate (1897+ Railroad)
  2. A train running on schedule, or an express train (Railroad)
  3. An iced, mixed alcoholic drink taken in a high glass: He quaffed a couple of rye highballs and left (1898+)
  4. A military salute (WWI Army)


To speed; rush: A train was thirty yards away, highballing down the track/ One New York distributor highballed 30 trucks through the Holland Tunnel (1925+ Railroad)

[fr the former use of a railroad trackside signal using a two-foot globe, raised or lowered, to instruct the engineer; the military sense fr the use of a railroad conductor's raised hand or fist as a signal to the engineer to start, the term transferred from the mechanical signal; the drinking sense is probably fr a ball, ''drink of whiskey'' in a high glass]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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