from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To divert from a main issue or course: I was sidetracked from my work by an unexpected visitor.
  • transitive v. To delay or block the progress of deliberately: "a bill that would sidetrack food irradiation in this country” ( Alexis Beck).
  • transitive v. To switch from a main railroad track to a siding.
  • intransitive v. To deviate from a main issue or course.
  • intransitive v. To run into a siding.
  • n. A railroad siding.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A second, relatively short length of track just to the side of a railroad track, joined to the main track by switches at one or both ends, used either for unloading freight, or to allow two trains on a same track to meet (opposite directions) or pass (same direction); a railroad siding.
  • n. Any auxiliary railroad track, as differentiated from a siding, that runs adjacent to the main track.
  • n. A smaller tunnel or well drilled as an auxiliary off a main tunnel or well.
  • n. An alternate train of thought, issue, topic, or activity, that is a deviation or distraction from the topic at hand or central activity, and secondary or subordinate in importance or effectiveness.
  • v. To divert (a locomotive) on to a lesser used track in order to allow other trains to pass.
  • v. To divert or distract (someone) from a main issue or course of action with an alternate or less relevant topic or activity; or, to use deliberate trickery or sly wordplay when talking to (a person) in order to avoid discussion of a subject.
  • v. To sideline; to push aside; to divert or distract from, reducing (something) to a secondary or subordinate position.
  • v. To deviate briefly from the topic at hand.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To transfer to a siding from a main line of track.
  • transitive v. Hence, fig., to divert or reduce to a position or condition that is relatively secondary or subordinate in activity, importance, effectiveness, or the like; to switch off; to turn aside, as from a purpose.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To put upon a side-track; shift from the main line of a railroad to a subsidiary one; shunt.
  • Figuratively, to divert to one side; turn aside from the proper or the practicable course.
  • To pass to a side-track; come to rest on a siding.
  • n. A short line of rails branching off by a switch from the main line of a railroad, and either returning to it or not at the further end, for use in turning out, shifting rolling-stock, etc.; a siding.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. wander from a direct or straight course
  • n. a short stretch of railroad track used to store rolling stock or enable trains on the same line to pass


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • It is kind of a sidetrack from the usual Cabinet fare, but might prove interesting to many of you.

    Babylon: Pavement Paradises

  • It was a great "sidetrack" - they learned more in a week and a half of blogging than I could have taught in a month.

    Me thinks you doth protest too much

  • It's a sidetrack of an existing well, and the sidetrack is a short sidetrack just to get around the completion.

  • I don't think this will 'sidetrack' the discussion - in fact, it relates to a point mentioned in Jason's comment to which I had hoped to return.

    Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Up

  • But there's always this kind of sidetrack two that goes on between the first ladies.

    CNN Transcript Apr 1, 2009

  • For example, a common practice is to "sidetrack," which means digging an underground offshoot from an existing well to make sure you get as much as you can from a large pocket of oil.

    NPR Topics: News

  • Although the ocean energy bureau plans to conduct the reviews before approving new deep-water wells and other projects that were covered by the moratorium, the government is on track to exempt relatively common "sidetrack" Chronicle

  • The rig has now moved to the Ezzaouia 2 well location to perform the planned sidetrack which is expected to take approximately three to four weeks.

    Marketwire - Breaking News Releases

  • The ambitious prosecutor knew that the Americans were determined to sidetrack his investigation, and he proceeded with care and discretion.


  • Then, once deciding that is a failing proposition, long overdue for correction and only defended by Special Interests, we need to finally and promptly fine tune a solution and not allow deceptive tactics to sidetrack it.

    Grade the Obama administration on health care


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.