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[hwip-saw, wip-] /ˈʰwɪpˌsɔ, ˈwɪp-/
a saw for two persons, as a pitsaw, used to divide timbers lengthwise.
verb (used with object), whipsawed, whipsawed or whipsawn, whipsawing.
to cut with a whipsaw.
to win two bets from (a person) at one turn or play, as at faro.
to subject to two opposing forces at the same time:
The real-estate market has been whipsawed by high interest rates and unemployment.
verb (used without object), whipsawed, whipsawed or whipsawn, whipsawing.
(of a trailer, railroad car, etc.) to swing suddenly to the right or left, as in rounding a sharp curve at high speed.
Origin of whipsaw
First recorded in 1530-40; whip + saw1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for whipsaw
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And I think he's going to whipsaw the market to a standstill this time, for sure.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • The boards we used in the building had to be sawed by us two slaves with a whipsaw.

    Biography of a Slave Charles Thompson
  • We sawed our boards with the whipsaw, and made our shingles out of the ash-trees.

    Mary and I

    Stephen Return Riggs
  • Spread this in as many pool-rooms as you can; get it all down on whipsaw.

    Young Wallingford

    George Randolph Chester
  • At the quarter, three horses drew into the lead, whipsaw just behind them.

    Young Wallingford

    George Randolph Chester
  • “Jake Block, the owner of whipsaw,” Wallingford was pleased to inform him.

    Young Wallingford

    George Randolph Chester
  • This was the way with these shrewd traders always, and to whipsaw a dying man would be nuts for a man like Prunty.

    Yellowstone Nights Herbert Quick
  • Then the Indian brings over a whipsaw from the cabin at Surprise Lake and makes lumber enough for the box.

    Lost Face Jack London
  • Try as she would, she could not get them out, and then she remembered that Hastings kept a whipsaw in a shed close by.

    Masters of the Wheat-Lands

    Harold Bindloss
British Dictionary definitions for whipsaw


any saw with a flexible blade, such as a bandsaw
verb (transitive) -saws, -sawing, -sawed, -sawed, -sawn
to saw with a whipsaw
(US) to defeat in two ways at once
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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Slang definitions & phrases for whipsaw



  1. To attack or operate by letting rival parties attack one another, to the benefit of the more or less passive manipulator: pit one plant against another, using interplant rivalries to spur production, a tactic called ''whipsawing'' (1873+)
  2. To assault; defeat; clobber: I'm not trying to sandbag anybody, and I'm not trying to whipsaw anybody/ Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by Confusion? (1970s+)

[first sense perhaps fr the reciprocal action of the whipsaw, a pit saw operated by one person above and one in the pit below; in an earlier slang use whipsaw meant ''to take bribes from two political sources at once''; second sense probably fr the cutting efficiency of this two-person saw]

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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