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

  • n. A slender flexible rod, stick, or twig, especially one used for whipping.
  • n. The bushy tip of the tail of certain animals: a cow's switch.
  • n. A thick strand of real or synthetic hair used as part of a coiffure.
  • n. A flailing or lashing, as with a slender rod.
  • n. A device used to break or open an electric circuit or to divert current from one conductor to another.
  • n. A device consisting of two sections of railroad track and accompanying apparatus used to transfer rolling stock from one track to another.
  • n. The act or process of operating a switching device.
  • n. The result achieved by such an act.
  • n. An exchange or a swap, especially one done secretly.
  • n. A transference or shift, as of opinion or attention.
  • transitive v. Chiefly Southern U.S. To whip with or as if with a switch, especially in punishing a child.
  • transitive v. To jerk or swish abruptly or sharply: a cat switching its tail.
  • transitive v. To shift, transfer, or divert: switched the conversation to a lighter subject.
  • transitive v. To exchange: asked her brother to switch seats with her.
  • transitive v. To connect, disconnect, or divert (an electric current) by operating a switch.
  • transitive v. To cause (an electric current or appliance) to begin or cease operation: switched the lights on and off.
  • transitive v. Informal To produce as if by operating a control. Often used with on: switched on the charm.
  • transitive v. To move (rolling stock) from one track to another; shunt.
  • intransitive v. To make or undergo a shift or an exchange: The office has switched to shorter summer hours.
  • intransitive v. To swish sharply from side to side.
  • switch off Informal To stop paying attention; lose interest.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A device to turn electric current on and off or direct its flow.
  • n. A change.
  • n. A movable section of railroad track which allows the train to be directed down one of two destination tracks; point.
  • n. A slender woody plant stem used as a whip.
  • n. A command line notation allowing specification of optional behavior.
  • n. A programming construct that takes different actions depending on the value of an expression.
  • n. A networking device connecting multiple wires, allowing them to communicate simultaneously, when possible. Compare to the less efficient hub device that solely duplicates network packets to each wire.
  • n. A system of specialized relays, computer hardware, or other equipment which allows the interconnection of a calling party's telephone line with any called party's line.
  • n. One who is willing to take either a sadistic or a masochistic role.
  • v. To exchange.
  • v. To change (something) to the specified state using a switch.
  • v. To whip or hit with a switch.
  • v. To change places, tasks, etc.
  • v. (intransitive) To get angry suddenly; to quickly or unreasonably become enraged.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A small, flexible twig or rod.
  • n. A movable part of a rail; or of opposite rails, for transferring cars from one track to another.
  • n. A separate mass or trees of hair, or of some substance (at jute) made to resemble hair, worn on the head by women.
  • n. A device for shifting an electric current to another circuit, or for making and breaking a circuit.
  • intransitive v. To walk with a jerk.
  • transitive v. To strike with a switch or small flexible rod; to whip.
  • transitive v. To swing or whisk.
  • transitive v. To trim, .
  • transitive v. To turn from one railway track to another; to transfer by a switch; -- generally with off, from, etc..
  • transitive v. To shift to another circuit.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To strike with a small twig or rod; beat; lash; hence, to cut or drive as with a switch.
  • To swing; whisk.
  • To trim, as a hedge.
  • In railroading, to transfer by a switch; transfer from one line of rails to another.
  • In electricity, to shift to another circuit; shunt.
  • To cut at; strike at.
  • To move off on a switch, or as if on a switch.
  • n. A small flexible twig or rod.
  • n. A mechanical device for shifting a moving body, or a current of electricity, etc., from one course or track to another.
  • n. In some forms of gas-burner, a key for controlling the amount of gas allowed to pass through.
  • n. The act of operating a switch: as, to make a flying switch. See phrase below.
  • n. A quantity of long hair, secured together at one end, worn by women with their own hair to make it look thicker. Jute or yak is sometimes used with or in place of hair, being cheaper.
  • n. . In electricity, a device for opening or closing an electric circuit, for reversing the direction of the current in such a circuit, for shifting current from one branch of a circuit to another, or, in general, for making, breaking, or shifting electrical connections. Switches vary greatly in design according to the conditions to be met. In general a switch differs from a key (which is a device for the easy and rapid making or breaking of a circuit, as in telegraphic signaling) in that it is so constructed that the circuit when broken shall remain open and when made shall remain closed until the reverse operation is performed. A switch should be so constructed as to carry permanently without excessive heating the maximum eurrent of the circuit in which it is placed, and the contacts should be of such low resistance that they will not become appreciably hot on the passage of the current. Good contact is sometimes secured by the use of a ‘mercury-switch’ in which the terminals of the lines to be connected are permanently attached to metallic capsules filled with mercury. When the circuit is to be closed connection between the mercury-cups is made by means of a short copper bar or link with ends bent downward so as to dip into the mercury. The volatilization of the mercury by the spark formed when the circuit is opened is a serious objection to mercury-switches and the ‘knife-switch’ is therefore more frequently used. It consists of a strip of copper, the knife, hinged at one end, or sometimes of two or more such knives mounted parallel to one another. The free end of the knife enters with considerable friction between the jaws of a copper clip when the circuit is to be closed, the friction serving to secure good contact between the metallic surfaces and to bold the knife in place. On high-tension circuits various devices are employed to prevent the formation of an arc when the circuit is open or to extinguish the arc when formed. One such device is the ‘snap-switch,’ in which, in order to make contact, a powerful spring is compressed and the switch is locked by a simple mechanism. When unlocked, the spring opens the switch with great suddenness, and the arc is of short duration. Sometimes a magnetic blow-out is used to extinguish the arc and sometimes an ‘oil-break switch’ is employed in which the opening of the circuit is made under oil. Automatic switches are frequently used in connection with electrical machinery. In the case of such switches the operation, whether it consist of the opening or closing of a circuit, the reversal of current, or the shifting of connections from one circuit to another, is done mechanically, either by the direct action of electromagnets or by mechanism released and set in motion by such magnets or otherwise.

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

  • n. a flexible implement used as an instrument of punishment
  • v. change over, change around, as to a new order or sequence
  • v. cause to go on or to be engaged or set in operation
  • n. hairpiece consisting of a tress of false hair; used by women to give shape to a coiffure
  • n. control consisting of a mechanical or electrical or electronic device for making or breaking or changing the connections in a circuit
  • n. railroad track having two movable rails and necessary connections; used to turn a train from one track to another or to store rolling stock
  • n. a basketball maneuver; two defensive players shift assignments so that each guards the player usually guarded by the other
  • v. flog with or as if with a flexible rod
  • v. make a shift in or exchange of
  • v. exchange or give (something) in exchange for
  • n. the act of changing one thing or position for another
  • v. lay aside, abandon, or leave for another
  • v. reverse (a direction, attitude, or course of action)
  • n. an event in which one thing is substituted for another


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

Probably of Low German or Flemish origin.


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