Meaning of SWITCH in English

I. switch 1 S2 W3 /swɪtʃ/ BrE AmE verb

1 . [intransitive and transitive] to change from doing or using one thing to doing or using another

switch to

She worked as a librarian before switching to journalism.

switch from something to something

Duval could switch easily from French to English.

switch between something and something

He switches between TV and theatre work.

The terrorists will switch tactics.

switch sides/allegiance (=start supporting a different person, party etc)

He switched sides just days before the election.

switch attention/focus/emphasis

We want to switch focus away from criticism.

2 . [transitive] to replace one thing with another, or exchange things SYN change

switch something for something

Tim may switch his BMW for something else.

switch something from something to something

We’ve switched the meeting from Tuesday to Thursday.

switch something around

It’s not easy to switch clerical workers around.

3 . [intransitive and transitive] American English if you switch with someone who does the same job as you, you exchange your working times with theirs for a short time SYN swap

switch with

Tom said he’d switch with me on Saturday.

He asked if we could switch shifts.

4 . [transitive always + adverb/preposition] to change the way a machine operates, using a switch

switch something to something

Switch the freezer to ‘defrost’.

• • •


■ nouns

▪ switch sides (=start supporting someone or something else)

Three senators switched sides and voted for the ban.

▪ switch (your) allegiance (=start supporting someone else)

Most of his supporters had switched their allegiance to his rival.

▪ switch channels (=start watching a different TV channel)

Rod switched channels with the remote control.

▪ switch tactics

Sensing that his victim was going to escape him, he switched tactics.

▪ switch your attention/focus to something

Laura wasn't interested so he switched his attention to Tessa.

▪ switch brands

46% of consumers surveyed were likely to switch brands to support companies they saw as socially responsible,

▪ the emphasis switches/is switched to something

The emphasis has switched to defence.

• • •


▪ exchange to give something to someone, and receive a similar thing from them at the same time. Exchange is often used about people telling each other about their ideas, phone numbers, addresses etc:

They exchanged photographs before they met.


a place where people can exchange ideas


We exchanged email addresses.


if you are unhappy with the jacket, you can always take it back and exchange it for another one.


These coupons can be exchanged for meals and accommodation.

▪ change to exchange something, especially money. Also used in British English about exchanging something you have bought for something different:

I need to change some dollars.


She changed all her money into euros.


We thought it was time we changed our car for something more modern.

▪ swap ( also do a swap British English ) informal to give something to someone, who gives you something similar:

The two schools use the Internet to swap pictures, stories, and jokes.


I like your room better – do you want to do a swap?

▪ trade ( also do a trade American English ) to exchange something that you have for something that someone else has:

The stolen phones are being traded for drugs.


The boys trade sports cards on the playground.


We've got lots of plants we don't need – do you want to do a trade?

▪ switch to change the places of two or more people or things, so that each one is in the place the other was before:

Can I switch seats with you?

▪ reciprocate to do or give something, because someone has done or given something similar to you – a rather formal use:

They invited us to dinner a while ago, and I'd like to reciprocate.

▪ in exchange/return (for something) if you give something in exchange or in return for something else, you give it in order to get something else back:

Williams will plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.

switch off phrasal verb

1 . to turn off a machine, light, radio etc using a switch

switch something ↔ off

The burglar alarm was switched off.

Don’t forget to switch off before you go.

2 . informal to stop listening to someone:

He just switches off and ignores me.

3 . to relax for a short time:

Switch off by listening to music.

switch on phrasal verb

to turn on a machine, light, radio etc using a switch

switch something ↔ on

He switched the torch on.

When a tape is put in the VCR, it switches on automatically.

switch over phrasal verb

1 . to change from one method, product etc to another

switch over to

We’ve switched over to telephone banking.

2 . to change the television ↑ channel you are watching or the radio station you are listening to

switch over to

Switch over to BBC 2.

II. switch 2 S3 BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Date: 1500-1600 ; Origin: Perhaps from Middle Dutch swijch 'small thin stick' ]

1 . ON/OFF a piece of equipment that starts or stops the flow of electricity to a machine, light etc when you push it:

Where’s the light switch?

an on–off switch

press/flick/throw etc a switch

Tom flicked the switch, but nothing happened.

She claims she is willing to throw the switch of the electric chair.

at the flick of a switch (=very quickly and easily, by pressing a switch)

Petrol can be chosen at the flick of a switch.

2 . CHANGE [usually singular] a complete change from one thing to another:

an important policy switch

switch from/to

the switch from agriculture to dairy production

switch in

a switch in emphasis

More shoppers are making the switch to organic food.

that’s a switch American English spoken informal (=used to say that someone’s behaviour is different from usual)

‘Ed’s the only one who’s not eating.’ ‘That’s a switch!’

3 . RAILWAY American English a piece of railway track that can be moved to allow a train to cross over from one track to another

4 . STICK old-fashioned a thin stick that bends easily

• • •


■ verbs

▪ press a switch

He pressed a switch on the wall and the door opened.

▪ flick/flip a switch (=move it so something starts or stops)

You start the fan by just flipping this switch.

▪ throw a switch (=move it so something starts or stops, especially something big)

Could a nuclear war really be started by someone just throwing a switch?


▪ a light switch

He reached for the light switch.

▪ a dimmer switch (=a switch that can change the brightness of a light)

▪ an on-off switch

I couldn’t find the on-off switch.

▪ the power switch

They have reverted to placing the mains power switch at the back of the unit.

▪ the mains switch (=one that controls the supply of electricity to a house)

The mains switch is located inside a cupboard near the front door.

■ phrases

▪ at the flick/touch of a switch (=very quickly and easily, with a switch)

The advantages of having electricity available at the flick of a switch are obvious.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.