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  1. a drink of whiskey mixed with club soda or ginger ale and served with ice in a tall glass.
  2. Railroads.
    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.
  3. Military Slang. a hand salute.
verb (used without object)
  1. Slang. to move at full speed.
verb (used with object)
  1. to signal to (the engineer of a train) to proceed.

Origin of highball

An Americanism dating back to 1880–85; high + ball1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for highball

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Joe finished his highball and came to his feet to get another one.


    Dallas McCord Reynolds

  • Kennedy finished off his highball and began to build another immediately.


    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

British Dictionary definitions for highball


  1. a long iced drink consisting of a spirit base with water, soda water, etc
  2. (originally in railway use) a signal that the way ahead is clear and one may proceed
  1. (intr) to move at great speed
  2. (tr) 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

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