switch

[ swich ]
/ swɪtʃ /

noun

verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

Idioms

    asleep at the switch, Informal. failing to perform one's duty, missing an opportunity, etc., because of negligence or inattention: He lost the contract because he was asleep at the switch.

Origin of switch

1585–95; earlier swits, switz slender riding whip, flexible stick; compare Low German (Hanoverian) schwutsche long, thin stick

Related forms

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for asleep at the switch

switch

/ (swɪtʃ) /

noun

verb

Derived Forms

switcher, nounswitchlike, adjective

Word Origin for switch

C16: perhaps from Middle Dutch swijch branch, twig
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

Idioms and Phrases with asleep at the switch (1 of 2)

asleep at the switch


Also, asleep at the wheel. Inattentive, not doing one's job, as in At the critical moment the watchman was asleep at the switch and only called the fire department when it was too late. This term came from 19th-century American railroading, when it was the trainman's duty to switch cars from one track to another by means of manually operated levers. Should he fail to do so, trains could collide. It was later transferred to any lack of alertness. The wheel in the variant is a steering wheel; similarly disastrous results are implied.

Idioms and Phrases with asleep at the switch (2 of 2)

switch


In addition to the idioms beginning with switch

  • switch off
  • switch on

also see:

  • asleep at the switch
  • bait and switch
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.