[ swich-bak ]


  1. a highway, as in a mountainous area, having many hairpin curves.
  2. Railroads. a zigzag track arrangement for climbing a steep grade.
  3. British. roller coaster.

verb (used without object)

  1. (of a road, railroad track, etc.) to progress through a series of hairpin curves; zigzag:

    The road switchbacks up the mountain.


/ ˈswɪtʃˌbæk /


  1. a mountain road, railway, or track which rises and falls sharply many times or a sharp rise and fall on such a road, railway, or track
  2. another word (esp Brit) for big dipper

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Word History and Origins

Origin of switchback1

An Americanism dating back to 1860–65; switch + back 2

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Example Sentences

The only time cutting switchbacks is allowed is when you have been given express permission by a Level 7 Wizard.

Each time I saw more and more people as I huffed up the steep switchbacks to Ice Lake, one of two high-altitude lakes accessed by the trail.

Most of the two-lane roads were established decades ago, when cars were smaller and slower, and drop from the rim of the gorge to the river in a series of sharp switchbacks.

Don’t cut the switchbacks, and whenever possible, walk in the middle of the trail, even if it’s muddy, rather than on the edges.

There are several dirt roads you can exercise your dog on within the park, or simply enjoy the views from the switchbacks of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and set up a picnic at the top with your pup.

It looked something like a switchback railway, only that while the incline varied, all the undulations ran down hill.

The minutes were uncomfortably long, he felt as if he were on a switchback, or in the throes of approaching sea-sickness.

Here we abandon the switchback lane, and, climbing a wall, begin to make our way along the side of the beck.

Of all the mountain-climbing I have ever done the switchback up to Doubtful Lake is the worst.

It was necessary to move on up the switchback, that the next horse behind might scramble up.


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