switch cane

Origin of switch cane

An Americanism dating back to 1835–45


  1. a stick or short staff used to assist one in walking; walking stick.
  2. a long, hollow or pithy, jointed woody stem, as that of bamboo, rattan, sugar cane, and certain palms.
  3. a plant having such a stem.
  4. split rattan woven or interlaced for chair seats, wickerwork, etc.
  5. any of several tall bamboolike grasses, especially of the genus Arundinaria, as A. gigantea (cane reed, large cane, giant cane, or southern cane) and A. tecta (small cane or switch cane), of the southern U.S.
  6. the stem of a raspberry or blackberry.
  7. sugarcane.
  8. a rod used for flogging.
  9. a slender cylinder or rod, as of sealing wax or glass.
verb (used with object), caned, can·ing.
  1. to flog with a cane.
  2. to furnish or make with cane: to cane chairs.

Origin of cane

1350–1400; Middle English < Middle French < Latin canna < Greek kánna < Semitic; compare Akkadian qanū, Hebrew qāneh reed
Related formscane·like, adjectivecan·y, adjectivere·cane, verb (used with object), re·caned, re·can·ing.un·caned, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for switch cane


    1. the long jointed pithy or hollow flexible stem of the bamboo, rattan, or any similar plant
    2. any plant having such a stem
    1. strips of such stems, woven or interlaced to make wickerwork, the seats and backs of chairs, etc
    2. (as modifier)a cane chair
  1. the woody stem of a reed, young grapevine, blackberry, raspberry, or loganberry
  2. any of several grasses with long stiff stems, esp Arundinaria gigantea of the southeastern US
  3. a flexible rod with which to administer a beating as a punishment, as to schoolboys
  4. a slender rod, usually wooden and often ornamental, used for support when walking; walking stick
  5. See sugar cane
  6. a slender rod or cylinder, as of glass
verb (tr)
  1. to whip or beat with or as if with a cane
  2. to make or repair with cane
  3. informal to defeatwe got well caned in the match
  4. cane it slang to do something with great power, force, or speed or consume something such as alcohol in large quantitiesyou can do it in ten minutes if you really cane it
Derived Formscaner, noun

Word Origin for cane

C14: from Old French, from Latin canna, from Greek kanna, of Semitic origin; related to Arabic qanāh reed


  1. dialect a female weasel

Word Origin for cane

C18: of unknown origin
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 switch cane



"to beat with a walking stick," 1660s, from cane (n.). Related: Caned; caning.



late 14c., from Old French cane "reed, cane, spear" (13c., Modern French canne), from Latin canna "reed, cane," from Greek kanna, perhaps from Assyrian qanu "tube, reed" (cf. Hebrew qaneh, Arabic qanah "reed"), from Sumerian gin "reed." But Tucker finds this borrowing "needless" and proposes a native Indo-European formation from a root meaning "to bind, bend." Sense of "walking stick" in English is 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper