Definition of switch in English:


Syllabification: switch
Pronunciation: /swiCH


  • 1A device for making and breaking the connection in an electric circuit: the guard hit a switch and the gate swung open
    More example sentences
    • By adding switches to their electrical circuits, the students were able to understand how circuits can be broken to determine its on and off status.
    • Other switches sense the electrical conductivity of the water in the bilge.
    • So the motors in most refrigerators, for example, control electricity with a switch - you can hear it go on and off.
    button, lever, control, dial, rocker
  • 1.1 Computing A program variable that activates or deactivates a certain function of a program.
    More example sentences
    • He pressed the switch to deactivate the program, then his weapons faded and he opened the door.
    • Many simple things, for example picking up an item, activating a switch or initiating a dialog, can be done with a single mouse click.
    • If incorrectly configured, extremely complex technologies like operating systems, switches or databases are unreliable.
  • 2An act of adopting one policy or way of life, or choosing one type of item, in place of another; a change, especially a radical one: his friends were surprised at his switch from newspaper owner to farmer
    More example sentences
    • Mr Morrissey said oil companies used currency fluctuations to justify price increases but that a switch to euro pricing would put an end to this and bring real benefits for road users.
    • Despite McKenzie's bullish predictions about take-up, the switch from NT to Windows 2000 is likely to be a gradual one.
    • Opinion polls show more than half of Britons are opposed to ditching the pound although an increasing number feel the switch is inevitable.
    change, move, shift, transition, transformation; reversal, turnaround, U-turn, changeover, transfer, conversion; substitution, exchange
  • 3A slender flexible shoot cut from a tree.
    More example sentences
    • The students are lined up in somewhat orderly rows by their class leaders while a few of the teachers oversee the process, swishing small switches recently torn from nearby eucalyptus trees.
    • She wanted a whippy switch off a willow tree in the front yard.
    • I've been hit with slippers, with a dustpan, with a switch cut from the cherry tree in our backyard.
    branch, twig, stick, rod
  • 4North American A junction of two railroad tracks, with a pair of linked tapering rails that can be moved laterally to allow a train to pass from one line to the other.
    More example sentences
    • In later years private contractors installed the siding while the railway installed the switch.
    • Life-expired signalling equipment and related trackwork, switches and crossings will be replaced.
    • Imagine for a moment you are standing at a railway switch.
  • 5A tress of false or detached hair tied at one end, used in hairdressing to supplement natural hair.
    More example sentences
    • On an impulse, Katherine reached up with her other hand and flicked her hood off of her head, revealing her long switch of hair.
    • He also collected strands of their hair that had fallen out to make a switch.
    • The long, silken switch of hair was cut carefully into four or five shorter sections.


[with object] Back to top  
  • 1Change the position, direction, or focus of: the company switched the boats to other routes
    More example sentences
    • The families of 24 children have called on the ministers for education and healthcare to reverse a recent trend to switch its focus away from health services.
    • The deflection diverted it and Gordon had to switch direction to get a hand to it and palm it away.
    • Have you ever noticed how, when an uncomfortable topic comes up in conversation, the focus is sometimes switched to avoid the important issue that just came up?
    change, shift; reverse
    informal chop and change
  • 1.1Adopt (something different) in place of something else; change: [with object]: she’s managed to switch careers [no object]: she worked as a librarian and then switched to journalism
    More example sentences
    • But if for any reason he wishes to switch to a different career, he certainly has what it takes in other ways.
    • Trained as a librarian, he switched careers to begin work as a museum assistant at the old railway museum in Faringdon Road.
    • Remember, if you wish to switch lenders mid-term different exit penalties may apply.
  • 1.2Substitute (two items) for each other; exchange: after ten minutes, listener and speaker switch roles
    More example sentences
    • The next day, they are out on the street corner comparing their presents and neither is happy, so they switch gifts with each other.
    • ‘Once a year we reward the ladies for their efforts by switching roles with the men donning their aprons to provide a Ladies Lunch,’ said Gordon.
    • By switching the sibling roles and darkening their relationship, Chéreau found echoes of the emotional distance he feels from his own brother.
  • 2 archaic Beat or flick with or as if with a switch.

Phrasal verbs

switch something off

Turn off an electrical device.
More example sentences
  • There's even a remarkably clear optical viewfinder to help framing if you want to conserve battery power by switching off the 1.6in colour screen.
  • Islanders traditionally begin Sabbath observance late on Saturday night, switching off televisions and making sure they are home well before midnight.
  • Many people think their actions will make no difference but if a million of us all take the same small action such as switching off the TV stand-by there would be a huge saving.
(switch off) • informal Cease to pay attention: as he waffles on, I switch off
More example sentences
  • Particularly I'm going to switch off or stop reading when I recognise signs of distress in myself.
  • Many just switch off, saying that they'll pay attention when there is real danger.
  • That's ideal if you come here to switch off, since you enjoy attentive service without any hassle.

switch something on

Turn on an electrical device.
More example sentences
  • He came into the house between 6.40 am and 6.46 am and for whatever reason, switched on the computer.
  • I switched on the headlights.
  • She stepped forward and switched on the light in the living room.



More example sentences
  • Even though this is a few steps down from the top spec car, it still comes with air conditioning, switchable between driver and passenger, a CD player, electric windows, and alloy wheels.
  • Consider, for instance, how the interior windows, glass balustrades, and switchable partitions create both a sense of openness and the ability to zone spaces for specific uses and privacy.
  • The three separately switchable, compact fluorescent lamps in red, green and blue, not only produce these primary colours, but also three secondary-colour pastel shades and one shade of white.


late 16th century (denoting a thin tapering riding whip): probably from Low German.

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