Origin of seesaw

1630–40 as part of a jingle accompanying a children's game; gradational compound based on saw1

Regional variation note

Although seesaw (def. 2) is the most widely used term in the U.S., teetertotter is also in wide use in the Northern, North Midland, and Western regions. Tilting board and its variants tilt board and tiltering board are New Eng. terms, especially Eastern New Eng., while tinter and its variant teenter are associated with Western New Eng.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for seesaw

Contemporary Examples of seesaw

  • Absent a complete ban, or total irrationality, judges should simply step off the seesaw.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Hands Off Those Gun Laws, Judges

    Eric Segall

    June 1, 2014

  • If the government infringes a protected right, one side of the seesaw goes in the air and the right is lifted and protected.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Hands Off Those Gun Laws, Judges

    Eric Segall

    June 1, 2014

  • After months of seesaw battles in the Sahara Desert, Libya's rebels are now making their first serious push to Tripoli.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Battle for Tripoli

    August 22, 2011

Historical Examples of seesaw

British Dictionary definitions for seesaw



a plank balanced in the middle so that two people seated on the ends can ride up and down by pushing on the ground with their feet
the pastime of riding up and down on a seesaw
  1. an up-and-down or back-and-forth movement
  2. (as modifier)a seesaw movement


(intr) to move up and down or back and forth in such a manner; oscillate

Word Origin for seesaw

C17: reduplication of saw 1, alluding to the movement from side to side, as in sawing
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