Definition of switch in English:

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Pronunciation: /swɪtʃ/


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, handle, lever, key, control, controller, disc, dial, joystick;
circuit breaker
1.1 Computing A program variable which activates or deactivates a certain function of a program.
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.
1.2 Computing A device which forwards data packets to an appropriate part of the network.
Example sentences
  • The company's first silicon, expected later this year, will target broadband communications - switches, routers and network interface cards.
  • The switch supports synchronous optical network and synchronous digital hierarchy digital data transmission standards.
  • However, to scale for a global network, switches are required to communicate with each other in a packet network.
2An act of changing to or adopting one thing in place of another: 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, change of direction, move, shift, transition, transformation, diversion;
reversal, turnaround, swerve, U-turn, rowback, changeover, transfer, conversion, substitution, exchange, interchange;
British  about-turn
exchange, swap, trade, substitution, interchange, replacement, rotation
3A slender, flexible shoot cut from a tree.
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, shoot, stick, rod
4North American A set of points on a railway track.
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.
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]
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, convert, divert, redirect;
informal chop and change
1.1Adopt (something different) in place of something else; change: 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.
exchange, swap, interchange, trade, substitute, cause to change places, replace, rotate
2 archaic Beat or flick with or as if with a switch.

Phrasal verbs


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 off (or on)

Turn an electrical device off (or on): she switched on the kettle
More example sentences
  • Shortly afterwards the power was switched off by electricity company Powergen.
  • Only about 20% ensure that all electrical appliances are switched off and a similarly low figure check that the cooker is off.
  • The lights are switched on when the operator stops projection to change the spools.
turn on, put on, flick on, activate, power up, start off, set going, get going, trigger off, set in motion, operate, initiate, actuate, boot up, initialize, energize
turn off, shut off, flick off, stop working, cut, power down, stop, halt, deactivate;



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.

Words that rhyme with switch

bewitch, bitch, ditch, enrich, fitch, flitch, glitch, hitch, itch, kitsch, Mitch, pitch, quitch, rich, snitch, stitch, titch, twitch, which, witch

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: switch

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