Definition of third rail in English:

third rail

noun

  • 1An additional rail supplying electric current, used in some electric railway systems.

    • ‘She fell off the subway platform onto the track, burning her left hand on the third rail.’
    • ‘There is no third rail on the connector from the mainline, so we needed the diesel for that stretch too.’
    • ‘These aren't third rails, these are the generators that provide the power for the third rails.’
    • ‘New Zealand railways are largely powered by overhead electric cables or by diesel, rather than the third rail electrification systems which are widely used in US and European urban rail networks.’
    • ‘The conversion entailed the laying of a third rail, temporarily, so that in the changeover period trains for either gauge could be operated.’
    • ‘The third rail was added after 1973 so that the sand cleaning facility in the old yard in Cuautla could be used by the standard gauge.’
    • ‘All power to signals, the third rail which supplies power to trains, all power points and lighting went out at 6.30 pm.’
    • ‘They scaled barbed wire fences, leaping over instant death on electrified third rails, and running from police.’
    • ‘These days, though, there is something far more frightening lurking down in the Underground - worse even than the live third rail.’
    • ‘He received a jolt of electricity from the deadly third rail which carries 750 volts.’
    • ‘Most of these have existed for some time, and current is supplied through a third rail bringing direct current at about 800 Volts.’
    • ‘Although exact details have yet to be finalised, the new vehicles will probably be powered by diesel or electricity through a third rail in the middle of the lane.’
    • ‘Many of these are running on English lines with power supplied through a third rail below the train.’
    • ‘The fox, which was hit by a train or electrocuted by the third rail, has been left at the side of the track for at least four weeks despite it being reported on January 30.’
    • ‘When the New York City subway system's famed third rail lost power, some 350,000 riders were trapped.’
    • ‘The 6.25 miles from Parkdale to Weston became a Joint Section, with a third rail added.’
    • ‘Aa flagman on a track crew was electrocuted as a result of falling on the third rail in Manhattan.’
    • ‘Power will be drawn from a third rail acting as a conductor and running between the two rails.’
    • ‘We walked down the tracks, passing by the platforms, and making sure not to step on the third rails, even though the power was probably out.’
    • ‘It's a different service down here - electrified by third rail rather than overhead wire and the rolling stock is different so direct comparisons are difficult.’
  • 2US informal A subject considered by politicians to be too controversial to discuss.

    ‘until very recently, the conventional wisdom said that Social Security was the third rail of politics’
    • ‘Given hard feelings over recent ballot initiatives that curtailed not only aid to illegals but also affirmative action and bilingual education, unlawful immigration has become the third rail of California politics.’
    • ‘That made criticisms of his absences sort of a third rail, so they couldn't use the issue effectively.’
    • ‘The president's been trying to convince Washington that Social Security's no longer the third rail of politics.’
    • ‘Today, no leading politician in either party will come anywhere near the idea - the draft having replaced Social Security as the third rail of American politics.’
    • ‘In the world of campaigns, Social Security is known as ‘the third rail.’’
    • ‘Social Security has been called the third rail of American politics, the one you're not supposed to touch because it might shock you.’
    • ‘In fact I'm astonished by his courage on the issue, as Social Security has always been called the third rail of politics.’
    • ‘Talking about cutting Social Security benefits is always the so-called third rail of politics, a lethal topic.’
    • ‘Rape is the third rail of feminism and touching the issue with anything but complete agreement with the accepted approach will give the questioner a nasty shock.’
    • ‘Rather than treating social security as the third rail, to be avoided at any cost, both major candidates took strong and contrasting positions as major parts of their campaigns.’
    • ‘The reason politicians don't want to get close to this because it is another third rail in politics.’
    • ‘For too long, progressives have been squeamish about citing those moral imperatives, as though compassion were the third rail in American politics.’
    • ‘He is willing to take steps and call for policies that most Japanese politicians look on as the third rail in politics.’
    • ‘He may end up paying the biggest price just for trying to change one of Washington's most sacred cows, the well known third rail of American politics.’
    • ‘So why is the entire Democratic presidential field buying the conservative consultant line about the supposed third rail of ‘gay marriage’?’
    • ‘Social Security has always been considered the third rail of American politics.’
    • ‘It isn't called the third rail of American politics for no reason.’
    • ‘Social Security is the third rail of American politics, they say.’
    • ‘Immigration is the third rail of Western European politics, and anyone who dares to question its benefits is demonized as a right-wing extremist.’
    • ‘This makes me think about the conceit which started him off on this titanic effort: his belief and repeated claim that Social Security wasn't the third rail of American politics any longer.’