Definition of see-saw in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsiːsɔː/


1A long plank balanced in the middle on a fixed support, on each end of which children sit and swing up and down by pushing the ground alternately with their feet.
Example sentences
  • This week some swings and see-saws have been put in the site.
  • There have already been hundreds of people coming to this park, and because there is such a big demand, we are planning on adding a second set of swings, see-saws, sand pit and benches.
  • Some brought see-saws, slides and swings to their frames.
1.1A situation characterized by rapid, repeated changes from one state or condition to another: the emotional see-saw of a first love affair [as modifier]: see-saw interest rates
More example sentences
  • The emotional see-saw of her life so far, with its successes and failures, knows few limits.
  • The intellectual see-saw continues as we're carefully guided through an ethical minefield of technologies.
  • Few contests ever have involved so much see-saw emotion.


[no object]
1Change rapidly and repeatedly from one position, situation, or condition to another and back again: the market see-sawed as rumours spread of an imminent cabinet reshuffle
More example sentences
  • During that period his condition would see-saw and we were not sure if he would pull through.
  • The London Market's fortunes continued to see-saw yesterday as the City digested yet another dramatic session.
  • First, it is suggested that successive attempts to expound a Marxian theory of nature have see-sawed between naturalistic and social constructionist positions.
1.1 [with object] Cause (something) to move back and forth or up and down rapidly and repeatedly: Sybil see-sawed the car back and forth
fluctuate, swing, go from one extreme to the other, go up and down, rise and fall, oscillate, alternate, yo-yo, teeter, be unstable, be unsteady, vary, shift, sway, ebb and flow


Mid 17th century (originally used by sawyers as a rhythmical refrain): reduplication of the verb saw1 (symbolic of the sawing motion).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: see-saw

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.