[ swich ]
See synonyms for: switchswitchedswitchingswitchable on Thesaurus.com

  1. a turning, shifting, or changing: After the scandal there was a dramatic switch of votes to another candidate.

  2. a slender growing shoot, as of a plant: A forked willow switch can supposedly be used to find water underground.

  1. a slender, flexible shoot, rod, etc., used especially as a whip, as for corporal punishment: Discipline there was done by means of a switch.She would take a switch to the ox, but never more severely than to get its attention.

  2. a stroke, lash, or whisking movement, with or as if with a slender, flexible rod or shoot: She was interrupted by a switch in the face from a tree branch.

  3. Electricity. a device for turning on or off or directing an electric current or for making or breaking a circuit.

  4. Computers.

    • a device connecting others in a network, enabling communication among them by interrogating each received data packet for its source and destination and then routing it to the appropriate device in the network.: Compare hub (def. 7).

    • Also called switch state·ment . (in a program or piece of code) a structure permitting a number of different actions as determined by the value of a particular expression.

    • Also called com·mand-line switch . an argument sent to a program when it is run from the command line rather than via a graphical user interface, and which modifies the function of the command.

  5. Railroads. a track structure for diverting moving trains or rolling stock from one track to another, commonly consisting of a pair of movable rails.

  6. Bridge. a change to a suit other than the one played or bid previously.

  7. Basketball. a maneuver in which two teammates on defense shift assignments so that each guards the opponent usually guarded by the other.

  8. a hairpiece consisting of a bunch or tress of long hair or some substitute, fastened together at one end and worn by women to supplement their own hair.

  9. a tuft of hair at the end of the tail of some animals, as of the cow or lion.

  10. Slang.

    • (especially in BDSM) a person who is willing to take either a dominant or a submissive role in a sexual relationship.

    • (in the LGBTQ community) a person who is willing to take either a penetrative or a receptive role in a particular sexual act, especially anal intercourse.

verb (used with object)
  1. to shift or exchange: The two girls switched their lunch boxes.

  2. to turn, shift, or divert: to switch conversation from a painful subject.

  1. Electricity. to connect, disconnect, or redirect (an electric circuit or the device it serves) by operating a switch (often followed by off or on): I switched on a light.

  2. Railroads.

    • to move or transfer (a train, car, etc.) from one set of tracks to another.

    • to drop or add (cars) or to make up (a train).

  3. Movies, Television. to shift rapidly from one camera to another in order to change camera angles or shots.

  4. to whip or beat with a switch or the like; lash: He switched the boy with a cane.

  5. to move, swing, or whisk (a cane, a fishing line, etc.) with a swift, lashing stroke.

verb (used without object)
  1. to change direction or course; turn, shift, or change.

  2. to exchange or replace something with another: He still eats a lot of potato chips, but he's switched to a brand that's lower in salt.

  1. to make a stroke or strokes with or as with a switch.

  2. to move or sway back and forth, as a cat's tail.

  3. to be shifted, turned, etc., by means of a switch.

  4. Basketball. to execute a switch.

  5. Bridge. to lead a card of a suit different from the suit just led by oneself or one's partner.

Idioms about switch

  1. asleep at the switch, Informal. failing to perform one's duty, missing an opportunity, etc., because of negligence or inattention: He lost the contract because he was asleep at the switch.

Origin of switch

First recorded in 1585–95; earlier swits, switz “slender riding whip, flexible stick”; compare Low German (Hanoverian) schwutsche “long, thin stick”

Other words for switch

Other words from switch

  • switch·a·ble, adjective
  • switch·er, noun
  • switch·like, adjective
  • un·switch·a·ble, adjective
  • un·switched, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use switch in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for switch


/ (swɪtʃ) /

  1. a mechanical, electrical, electronic, or optical device for opening or closing a circuit or for diverting energy from one part of a circuit to another

  2. a swift and usually sudden shift or change

  1. an exchange or swap

  2. a flexible rod or twig, used esp for punishment

  3. the sharp movement or blow of such an instrument

  4. a tress of false hair used to give added length or bulk to a woman's own hairstyle

  5. the tassel-like tip of the tail of cattle and certain other animals

  6. any of various card games in which the suit is changed during play

  7. US and Canadian a railway siding

  8. US and Canadian a railway point

  9. Australian informal See switchboard

  1. to shift, change, turn aside, or change the direction of (something)

  2. to exchange (places); replace (something by something else): the battalions switched fronts

  1. mainly US and Canadian to transfer (rolling stock) from one railway track to another

  2. (tr) to cause (an electric current) to start or stop flowing or to change its path by operating a switch

  3. to swing or cause to swing, esp back and forth

  4. (tr) to lash or whip with or as if with a switch

Origin of switch

C16: perhaps from Middle Dutch swijch branch, twig

Derived forms of switch

  • switcher, noun
  • switchlike, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with switch


In addition to the idioms beginning with switch

  • switch off
  • switch on

also see:

  • asleep at the switch
  • bait and switch

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.