Definition of somersault in US English:



  • An acrobatic movement in which a person turns head over heels in the air or on the ground and lands or finishes on their feet.

    ‘a backward somersault’
    figurative ‘Paula's stomach turned a somersault’
    • ‘Finally he came down in a somersault and landed on one knee.’
    • ‘Chen, who is now playing elder sister to many of her younger classmates, has already accustomed herself to the endless backward somersaults, handstands and horse vaults.’
    • ‘He was awarded 9.80 points for his vault - a handspring somersault with forward salto.’
    • ‘Eventually they may learn to do a somersault in the water by adapting their land movements to the water, but that doesn't mean they are doing it as efficiently as an aquatic creature would do it.’
    • ‘He launched himself off the roof, performed a double somersault and landed on his feet unharmed.’
    • ‘Once he bungled a somersault, but managed such a smooth entry into the next exercise that the spectators never suspected that anything was amiss.’
    • ‘Gymnasts start early and children as young as two use soft apparatus to learn their first somersault and handspring, under the watchful eyes of more than 20 qualified coaches.’
    • ‘I did a neat backward somersault and landed in the river in a welter of blue and silver, unpleasantly aware I could not swim.’
    • ‘I did a somersault and landed gracefully on my feet.’
    • ‘My intention was this: to do a round-off on to a trampette then tuck backwards into a somersault and land on my feet.’
    • ‘With practice, the momentum created by the dolphin kick and hand movement initiating your somersault should allow you to land aggressively at the wall.’
    • ‘I dove to my left again, and this time rolled into a somersault that landed me in a thicket of mountain laurel at the base of the ridge.’
    • ‘We have now rejuvenated the program in the floor exercises, long horse and in the rings, introducing new complex somersaults and pirouettes.’
    • ‘His heart turned a somersault at her use of his given name.’
    • ‘Level Three were the most difficult containing moves such as back flips, somersaults and full cartwheels.’
    • ‘I believe you can gyrate on the somersault, get your feet down as best as you can, and push off and go very fast off the wall.’
    • ‘She still has ambitious goals: reading, backward somersaults, swimming, tying shoes.’
    • ‘Now a pirouette has been added to Korbut's loop and several young ladies do a backward somersault on the beam twice in a row.’
    • ‘Every minute of the training session is planned: she does warming up exercises slowly and thoroughly, does her pull ups on the wall bars, then to the trampoline for a few light and graceful leaps and somersaults.’
    • ‘I remember the fans gasping at Lyukin's triple somersault in the floor exercises for the Moscow News prize.’


[no object]
  • Perform a somersault, or make a similar movement accidentally.

    ‘his car somersaulted into a ditch’
    • ‘Moving at a speed higher than most people comprehend, Dice rolled to the left to avoid the first bullet then somersaulted back onto the boot of the car.’
    • ‘The driver and his three passengers were injured after the car went out of control and somersaulted into a farmer's field.’
    • ‘In 1990 he became a prizewinner, at the Mondial du Cirque du Demain in Paris, with a performance including dancing and somersaulting on the Tight Wire.’
    • ‘Car parts were strewn and blood spattered on Solomon Hochoy Highway on Monday, as two cars collided and somersaulted, killing one man and injuring six people.’
    • ‘While to the ordinary eye the witch is indistinguishable from those around her, to the priest she appears to be somersaulting through the air and turning cartwheels.’
    • ‘Eye-witnesses reported seeing the car somersaulting.’
    • ‘For on 7 March, 1973, Kathy, who lived on Bury Road with her family, was lucky to escape with her life when her sports car skidded and somersaulted on a motorway approach road.’
    • ‘The only injuries this time are some pulled muscles in the back of my neck from somersaulting down the hill.’
    • ‘The new fence is designed so that the top rail drops to one side when hit by a horse, saving the animal and rider from somersaulting.’
    • ‘Yet the product that emerged, as the Russians soared and twisted and somersaulted, was one of grace and elegance and hard-to-imagine body control.’
    • ‘The car struck a row of trees before somersaulting on to its roof and returning spinning to the road.’
    • ‘A resident in Meggeson Avenue said: ‘I think the car knocked down a lamppost and somersaulted quite a few times.’’
    • ‘With three points in it, Glasgow went on the attack, Henry somersaulting over a tackle to secure the result and the bonus point.’
    • ‘Tony jumped past me, somersaulting onstage, and straightening up with a flower between his teeth.’
    • ‘Our keep-fit sessions were such fun - we hopped on one leg, somersaulted, balanced and scissored and although you loved to show off your skills, you loved me joining in.’
    • ‘But that did not keep her from somersaulting to the top in the Soviet world of gymnastics.’
    • ‘Our neighbor - a kind man, really - gritted his teeth and looked the other way as they somersaulted and tumbled on its velvety surface.’
    • ‘He saw the deer hurled into the air, its willowy body limply somersaulting like a stuffed toy.’
    • ‘It is understood that the teenager was a front seat passenger in the car which careered off the narrow road and somersaulted before crashing into trees.’
    • ‘When she wouldn't stop somersaulting and cartwheeling in the front room we decided to take her dancing.’


Mid 16th century (as a noun): from Old French sombresault, from Provençal sobresaut, from sobre ‘above’ + saut ‘leap’.