Etymology: perhaps from Middle Dutch swijch twig
1. a slender flexible whip, rod, or twig <a riding switch> 2. an act of switching: as a. a blow with a switch b. a shift from one to another c. a change from the usual <that outfit is a switch> 3. a tuft of long hairs at the end of the tail of an animal (as a cow) — see cow illustration 4. a device made usually of two movable rails and necessary connections and designed to turn a locomotive or train from one track to another 5. a device for making, breaking, or changing the connections in an electrical circuit 6. a heavy strand of hair used in addition to a person's own hair for some coiffures II. verb Date: circa 1611 transitive verb 1. to strike or beat with or as if with a switch 2. whisk, lash <a cat switching its tail> 3. a. (1) to turn from one railroad track to another ; shunt (2) to move (cars) to different positions on the same track within terminal areas b. to make a shift in or exchange of <switch seats> 4. a. to shift to another electrical circuit by means of a switch b. (1) to operate an electrical switch so as to turn (as a device) on or off — usually used with on or off (2) to change to or from an active state — usually used with on or off <switched on the gene> intransitive verb 1. to lash from side to side 2. to make a shift or exchange • switchable adjective • switcher noun
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.