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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
An Americanism dating back to 1860-65; switch + back2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for switchback
Historical Examples
  • Alexander remarked as they rounded another turn on the switchback path.

    The Lani People J. F. Bone
  • I felt as if once again I were strapped in the car on the switchback railway.

    Marie Tarnowska

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

    Marie Tarnowska

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

    From Sea to Sea Rudyard Kipling
  • It was four o'clock when we began the ascent of the switchback at the top of the valley.

    Tenting To-night Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • As a matter of fact, we dropped two horses on that switchback.

    Tenting To-night Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • The highest point on the 'switchback' is the nearest to it in my experience.

  • "It's been as good as a switchback," said Amanda after reflection.

  • They had never been of any real utility, and were regarded by the public much in the same light as we regard a switchback railway.

    Carriages & Coaches Ralph Straus
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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