American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The rail that supplies the high voltage to power a train on an electric railway.
- n. A subject that tends to be avoided because of its offensive or controversial nature: "Social Security, the 'third rail' of American politics” ( Charles Stein).
- n. The electrified rail that runs besides, or between train tracks to power electric trains.
- n. by extension anything that is dangerous to come into contact with, or is best avoided
GNU Webster's 1913
- colloq., colloq. The third rail used in the third-rail system.
- colloq. An electric railway using such a rail.
- n. a rail through which electric current is supplied to an electric locomotive
“In his haste to stab Taylor he'd ignored what was just beyond her body — what she'd been trying to sucker him into hitting the electrified third rail of the subway, which held more amperage than an electric chair.”
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