[ swich-bawrd, -bohrd ]
/ ˈswɪtʃˌbɔrd, -ˌboʊrd /
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noun Electricity.
a structural unit on which are mounted switches and instruments necessary to complete telephone circuits manually.
Also called lightboard. a panel of switches, dimmers, etc., for controlling the lighting on a stage or in an auditorium.
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Origin of switchboard

An Americanism dating back to 1870–75; switch + board
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a switchboard?

A switchboard is a device used to connect telephone calls.

Switchboards, which are now largely obsolete, consisted of a board of circuits and switches that needed to be manually adjusted for calls to be connected. The person who operated this kind of switchboard was called an operator or a switchboard operator.

Switchboards were used in telephone exchanges as well as places that had their own internal phone systems, such as offices and hotels.

In all of these settings, switchboards have been largely replaced with more advanced technology that does not require the manual connection of circuits. However, some devices might still be referred to as switchboards because they perform the same functions, just in automated ways.

Sometimes, the word switchboard was used as a way of referring to the place or people who operated the switchboard, as in Call the switchboard and have them connect you. It can still be used in this way even though such switchboards are no longer in common use.

The word switchboard can also refer to the control panel used to control lighting, such as on a stage or in an auditorium. This can also be called a lightboard.

It can also refer to an electrical device used to control the power supply in a building.

Example: My grandmother always tells me stories about how she worked as an operator and routed calls all over the world using the switchboard.

Where does switchboard come from?

The first records of the word switchboard come from the 1870s in the U.S. It is simply a compound word composed of the words switch and board.

Switchboards consisted of circuits and switches that needed to be manually changed and switched to different positions on the board based on how the call needed to be routed.

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How is switchboard used in real life?

Switchboards are largely obsolete in telecommunications but the word is still sometimes used to refer to modern devices.

Try using switchboard!

Is switchboard used correctly in the following sentence?

When I called the department store, the switchboard operator asked which department I needed to be connected to.

How to use switchboard in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for switchboard

/ (ˈswɪtʃˌbɔːd) /

an installation in a telephone exchange, office, hotel, etc, at which the interconnection of telephone lines is manually controlled
an assembly of switchgear for the control of power supplies in an installation or building
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