Meaning of roller coaster

roll'er coast"er

Pronunciation: [key]
  1. a small gravity railroad, esp. in an amusement park, having a train with open cars that moves along a high, sharply winding trestle built with steep inclines that produce sudden, speedy plunges for thrill-seeking passengers.
  2. a car or train of cars for such a railroad.
  3. any phenomenon, period, or experience of persistent or violent ups and downs, as one fluctuating between prosperity and recession or elation and despair.

roll•er-coast•er

Pronunciation: (rō'lur-kō"stur, rō'li-), [key]
— v.i.
  1. to go up and down like a roller coaster; rise and fall: a narrow road roller-coastering around the mountain; a light boat roller-coastering over the waves.
  2. to experience a period of prosperity, happiness, security, or the like, followed by a contrasting period of economic depression, despair, or the like: The economy was roller-coastering throughout most of the decade.
—adj.
  1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a roller coaster.
  2. resembling the progress of a ride on a roller coaster in sudden extreme changeableness.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.