How does one describe a road that goes upwards and downwards, as in the image below?


I'm not quite sure what word to use, although I am sure that there is one. Is it a zig-zag road?

By the way, the photo is from the Roller Coaster Highway in Oklahoma.

(There was a proposed duplicate, "Does calling a road 'wavy' convey its shape clearly?", but that question is about a road that goes left and right- this one is about a road going up and down.)

  • Do you know where this picture is taken?
    – Aganju
    Oct 19, 2018 at 12:38
  • 10
    @Agangu: it's Roller Coaster Highway In Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    – user296301
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:51
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    I think your picture says hilly road under it. See my answer.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2018 at 16:04
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Does calling a road 'wavy' convey its shape clearly? Oct 19, 2018 at 18:41
  • 2
    @computercarguy Not a dupe. The road in the other question appears to be flat yet winding. The road in this question is neither flat nor winding.
    – Laurel
    Oct 20, 2018 at 2:03

14 Answers 14


"Undulate" is often used for roads that go up and down, while 'zig-zag' is used for roads that repeatedly bend to the left and right.

The road undulates for three miles before descending into a valley.

I enjoy an undulating road while driving, but not while cycling.

  • 13
    That would be a good word for describing it in a book or similar form of writing, but in casual conversation that would sound out of place to me.
    – Herohtar
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:27
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    A hilly road in everyday parlance.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:59
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    I'll admit. If I saw undulate before this answer, I'd have to look it up to figure out what it means.
    – James Haug
    Oct 19, 2018 at 16:41
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    It's kind of ironic that we don't like "wavy", but we do like "undulating" - even though "undulating" comes from Latin "unda", which means "a wave". Language isn't logical!
    – alephzero
    Oct 20, 2018 at 10:30
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    @barbecue "Undulate" was the answer I immediately thought of when I saw the question title. (60-yo BrE native) Oct 22, 2018 at 13:10

I would go with


  1. Characterized by hills; abounding in hills.

As in, "Are you sure we should take that road? Won't it be very hilly?"

  • 3
    This is the term I would use to describe it, and the one I usually hear.
    – Herohtar
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:26
  • This is too generic and doesn't describe the situation in the photograph very well at all. Oct 21, 2018 at 19:12
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    @DavidRicherby Why not? I think it does. This is what most people would say.
    – user91988
    Oct 22, 2018 at 17:21
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    @only_pro "Hilly" just means characterized by hills. Any kind of hills at all. The road in question certainly has hills but "hilly" does nothing to suggest this repeated sequence of short up-and-down hills. It's like seeing somebody in a tuxedo and saying "They're wearing clothes": it's undeniably true but it doesn't convey any of the unusualness of the situation. Oct 22, 2018 at 18:05
  • @DavidRicherby please note that "Hilly" also means "abounding in hills," which this road absolutely appears to be.
    – scohe001
    Oct 22, 2018 at 18:11

Rolling (OXD)

(of land) extending in gentle undulations. ‘the rolling countryside’

Alternatively, roller-coaster (MWD)

marked by numerous ups and downs an entertainer's roller-coaster career

  • I would immediately think of something like the picture that the OP posted if I was told it was a "rolling road"
    – Michael J.
    Oct 19, 2018 at 13:15
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    I would have guessed a "rolling road" was some kind of sliproad for vehicles with non-functional breaks to roll to a halt on. Oct 19, 2018 at 13:17
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    I'm sorry, but this is a no-go. Rolling countryside but not rolling road.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2018 at 20:06
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    @Lambie, and yet, 'rolling road' was my first thought after reading only the title, and then after seeing the image hoping to add it as an answer. I am aware of what a rolling road is in the context of motor vehicles also. Oct 21, 2018 at 11:15
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    @LaurencePayne Words and phrases can have more than one meaning. Oct 21, 2018 at 19:13


a. Having or characterized by humps; marked by protuberances; humped; hump-like.

One of the examples given in OED is:

1888 Co-operative News 4 Aug. 783 As the cars ascend and descend the humpy road.

(emphasis mine)

Also, the top result on a Google image search for "humpy road" returns:

enter image description here


  • 2
    A kid might say humpy but a newspaper would say hilly.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2018 at 20:05
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    Due to other popular colloquial usage, words involving "hump" are pretty much not useful or appropriate for anything else... Oct 20, 2018 at 1:06
  • @R.. Agreed. I feel like in most conversations using this word would just make the whole thing awkward
    – MCMastery
    Oct 21, 2018 at 17:24
  • Speed bumps in the UK are often called speed humps. "Humpy" isn't a word that tends to get used for roads (note that the OED's example is 130 years old) but, if it was, I'd expect speed humps, not rolling terrain. Oct 21, 2018 at 19:14
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    @R.. the verb "hump", as in slang for engaging in sexual activity, and the adjective "humpy", as in something that is like a hump, are two entirely different words. You seem to be unreasonably fixated on the former. I find it disturbing and mildly insulting that you assume ("100%") that a person who uses the word "hump" as an adjective is a pervert ("A person whose sexual behaviour or inclinations are regarded as abnormal and unacceptable." (source)).
    – m-smith
    Oct 22, 2018 at 8:18

Up-and-down road:

having an uneven surface:

  • up-and-down countryside. (Dictionary.com)

Ngram up-and-down road:

1) It is a curvy, up-and-down road.

2) Now cross over into Israel proper and continue another 10 km to Nazareth on the up-and-down road.

3) 'I'd even like to be on that drowned rat of a bus going north along an up-and- down road,' I said,

Also “wavy” is an adjective you may use:

Marked by or moving in a wavelike form or motion.

Wavy road in Chongqing - CCTV News …

  • The surface may be very even in fact.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:47

Camelback can be used for this type of road


"Before the end you will be taken on a wild ride with a 540-degree helix, one spiral, a camelback hill and a carousel curve. — Julia Fawal, Woman's Day, "10 Things You Never Knew About Roller Coasters," 24 July 2015"

  • #werh your quote appears to be describing an actual roller coaster, rather than a road that is like a roller coaster. Do you have one that uses 'camelback' applied to a road? Oct 19, 2018 at 12:52

In Britain, we have road signs for such roads and are flagged by "Hidden dip" signs:

Hidden dip sign

So you could say:

the road has a series of [hidden] dips

but this isn't the one word answer that you were looking for, so I would have to suggest a variant of Trevor's answer and say undulatory, as an adjective, even though this is normally used as undulatory locomotion.

Or... switchback?

  • 7
    Not switchback. That is a road that zig zags up a steep hillside.
    – Jim
    Oct 19, 2018 at 14:46
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    @Jim Interestingly enough the word switchback has more than one road-related meaning (first and third under transportation here)
    – James
    Oct 20, 2018 at 21:27
  • @James - Yes it was a roller coaster that I had in mind when I suggested switchback, in particular the humps of a roller coaster. Oct 20, 2018 at 21:30
  • @James - Regardless. If you use that meaning you will be misunderstood.
    – Jim
    Oct 20, 2018 at 23:35
  • A dippy road, then? Oct 21, 2018 at 1:32

When cycling we'd call an undulating section like that "lumpy" (example event)


A rippling road, as Rambling Rose would reply.


I don't think there is a term that is used for a road such as this, because roads are long and winding and ever changing. Thus any term would fail to describe the road in whole.

When I was a kid we use to have a couple of slang terms for stretches of road like this. Roller coaster road, and we called the up and downs "Whoopy-dos".

  • There are former Roman roads still in use which are essentially straight and make no concessions for changing heights
    – Henry
    Oct 20, 2018 at 23:08

There is a track in south west Tasmania that crosses many of the spurs on the flank of Mt Picton, and as such it goes up and down many, many times. It is known as the Yo Yo Track, so a road can be said to yo yo or be a yo yoing road.


"Up-and-Down", "Undulating", and "Hilly" are all good words to describe this type of hill. Words such as "zig-zag" and "serpentine" imply a horizontal waviness, while "wavy" itself is too vague and can imply any possibility. Depending on if you're looking for an adjective to describe the road itself or an adverb to describe the path the road takes also expands the variety of words available to you for your usage.


A Sine might be a good word to represent this in a technological context.

Sinewaves are common when describing electrical currents or generated audio: enter image description here

  • 6
    One might describe a road as sinusoidal, but you'd be in danger of losing your reader with the relatively obscure mathematical term. It also holds no connotation of hills, a road that curves back and forth laterally is also sinusoidal. Oct 19, 2018 at 13:19
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    It would be a good term for a magazine like The New Yorker. It all depends on who the audience is.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:49
  • A sine wave gets much steeper than an undulating road thus, so it's not even technically correct.
    – gerrit
    Oct 19, 2018 at 18:44
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    @gerrit Try sin( x/10 )
    – Jim
    Oct 20, 2018 at 6:44
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    One might as well just stick with "wave" and drop the "sine".
    – gerrit
    Oct 20, 2018 at 9:24

Undulated , sinusoidal

In Spanish 🇪🇸 is. Ondulado , sinusoide. In Paraguayan 🇵🇾 Spanish is a little weird! Is something like: full of ups and downs :“lleno de arribadas y bajeadas”

  • 4
    I'm sorry but the answer "undulate" had already been supplied, and was accepted by the OP themself. Better luck next time!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2018 at 7:54