verb (used with or without object)

to move from the main track to a siding, as a train.
to move or distract from the main subject or course.


any railroad track, other than a siding, auxiliary to the main track.

Origin of sidetrack

An Americanism dating back to 1825–35; side1 + track Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for sidetrack

swerve, avert, veer, switch, deflect, digress, alter, change, redirect

Examples from the Web for sidetrack

Contemporary Examples of sidetrack

Historical Examples of sidetrack

  • Would it advance or sidetrack him in the career he had outlined for himself?

    The Octopus

    Frank Norris

  • You've not been paying proper attention to me; you were off on a sidetrack of your own laying.

    The Brentons

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • At Wassiwappa, Ray got instructions to sidetrack until Thirty-six went by.

    Song of the Lark

    Willa Cather

  • You have one talent already; why do you want to follow a sidetrack.

    The Precipice

    Ivan Goncharov

  • We became attached to this sidetrack, and for a long time had the sole use of it.

British Dictionary definitions for sidetrack



to distract or be distracted from a main subject or topic


US and Canadian a railway siding
the act or an instance of sidetracking; digression
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 sidetrack

also side-track, "railway siding," 1835, from side (adj.) + track (n.). The verb meaning "to move (a train car) onto a sidetrack" is from 1874; figurative sense of "to divert from the main purpose" is attested from 1881. Related: Sidetracked.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper