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    swath (n.) — switchboard (n.)

    swath (n.)

    Middle English swathe, "line or ridge of grass, grain, etc. cut and thrown together by a scythe," from Old English swæþ, swaðu "track, footstep, trace, scar, vestige," from Proto-Germanic *swethan-, *swathjon- (source also of Old Frisian swetha "boundary made by a scythe," Middle Dutch swade, Dutch zwade, Middle High German swade, German Schwad "a row of cut grass"); a word of uncertain origin and original signification. Boutkan offers no I.E. etymology.ETD swath (n.).2

    The meaning "a mown crop lying on the ground" had emerged by early 14c. That of "space covered by the single cut of a scythe" is from late 15c., and the general sense of "a strip, lengthwise extent" is from c. 1600.ETD swath (n.).3

    swathe (v.)

    "to bind with bandages, swaddle, wrap," Middle English swathen, from Old English swaþian "to swathe, wrap up," from swaðu "track, trace" (see swath). The noun meaning "infant's swaddling bands" is attested in Old English as swaþum (dative plural). Related: Swathed; swathing.ETD swathe (v.).2

    swatter (n.)

    "instrument for swatting flies," 1906, agent noun from swat (v.).ETD swatter (n.).2

    sway-backed (adj.)

    of a horse, "having the back naturally sagging," 1670s, according to OED of Scandinavian origin, perhaps related to obsolete Danish sveibaget in the same sense. See sway (v.) + back (n.). As a noun by 1913, "a sway-backed condition."ETD sway-backed (adj.).2

    swear (v.)

    Middle English sweren, from Old English swerian, swerigean, "take or utter an oath, make a solemn declaration with an appeal to divinity" (class VI strong verb; past tense swor, past participle sworen), from Proto-Germanic *swērjanan (source also of Old Saxon swerian, Old Frisian swera, Old Norse sverja, Danish sverge, Middle Dutch swaren, Old High German swerien, German schwören, Gothic swaren "to swear").ETD swear (v.).2

    This is of uncertain origin. The old explanation (Pokorny, Watkins) has it from a PIE *swer- "to speak, talk, say" (source also of Old Church Slavonic svara "quarrel," Oscan sverrunei "to the speaker"). Boutkan suspects a substratum word, or, if it is IE, writes that a connection to Latin verbum "seems more promising."ETD swear (v.).3

    It is related to the second element in answer. A Middle English noun sware meant "an answer, a reply; speech, utterance," from Old English -swaru, and from the Old Norse cognate.ETD swear (v.).4

    The secondary sense of "use profane language" (early 15c.) probably developed from the notion of "invoke sacred names profanely or blasphemously" (mid-14c.).ETD swear (v.).5

    To swear off "desist, abjure, renounce solemnly, as with a vow" is by 1839. To swear in "install (someone) in office by administration of an oath" is attested from 1700 in modern use, echoing Middle English, where to be sworn was to be admitted to office by formal oath (c. 1200).ETD swear (v.).6

    To swear by is from early 13c., originally in reference to a divine being or sacred object; the colloquial sense of "treat as an infallible authority, place great confidence in" is by 1815.ETD swear (v.).7

    swearing (n.)

    c. 1200, "action of taking an oath;" mid-14c., "utterance of profane language," verbal noun from swear (v.).ETD swearing (n.).2

    swear-word (n.)

    "profane word," 1873, American English colloquial, from swear (v.) + word (n.).ETD swear-word (n.).2

    sweat (n.)

    Middle English swete, alteration of swot, swoet, from Old English swat "perspiration, moisture exuded from the skin in drops through the pores," also "labor, that which causes sweating" (also sometimes "blood"), from Proto-Germanic *swaitaz "sweat" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian swet, Old Norse sveiti, Danish sved "sweat," Swedish svett, Middle Dutch sweet, Dutch zweet, Old High German sweiz, German Schweiß).ETD sweat (n.).2

    In Pokorny and Watkins this is from PIE *sweid- "to sweat," source also of Sanskrit svedah "sweat," Avestan xvaeda- "sweat," Greek hidros "sweat, perspiration," Latin sudor, Lettish swiedri, Welsh chwys "sweat." A widespread set of Slavic words (Polish, Russian pot "sweat") is from Old Church Slavonic potu, which is related to peku "heat," a word cognate with Latin coquere.ETD sweat (n.).3

    The Old English noun became Middle English swote, but took its current form under the influence of the verb. Extended to any exuded drops of moisture by late 14c. The meaning "condition of sweating, state of one who sweats or perspires" as a result of exertion, heat, etc. is by c. 1400, hence "short run of a horse for exercise" (c. 1700).ETD sweat (n.).4

    Sweat of (one's) brow as a symbol of toil (late 14c.) is from Genesis iii.19. Sweat equity is attested from 1968, in reference to the interest in property accrued by those who have maintained or improved it but do not own it (originally of squatters in municipal tenements). Sweat-labor (1670s) was used of the works and sufferings of the martyrs and Apostles.ETD sweat (n.).5

    sweating (n.)

    c. 1200, "emission of perspiration from the pores," verbal noun from sweat (v.). By early 15c. as "severe extortion."ETD sweating (n.).2

    Sweating sickness was a sudden, often-fatal fever, accompanied by intense sweating, that struck England 1485 and returned periodically through mid-16c., described in the original citation (a chronicle from 1502) as "a grete deth and hasty."ETD sweating (n.).3

    sweat (v.)

    Middle English sweten, from Old English swætan "perspire, excrete moisture from the skin," also "toil, labor, work hard," from Proto-Germanic *swaitjan "to sweat," from the source of sweat (n.). Compare Frisian swette, Dutch zweeten, Danish svede, German schwitzen.ETD sweat (v.).2

    The meaning "be worried, vexed" is recorded from c. 1400. The transitive sense of "cause to excrete moisture" is from late 14c. Related: Sweated; sweating.ETD sweat (v.).3

    sweat-band (n.)

    also sweatband, by 1862 in patents, "leather lining of a hat, etc., for protection against sweat of the head and brow," from sweat (n.) + band (n.1). Later of elastic bands of absorbent cloth worn by athletes, etc. to keep sweat of the brow from their eyes.ETD sweat-band (n.).2

    sweat-bee (n.)

    name of a widespread group of small bees, 1870, American English, from sweat (n.) + bee (n.). So called for their apparent attraction to perspiration. They are unaggressive, only the females sting, and the pain is slight.ETD sweat-bee (n.).2

    sweater (n.)

    1520s, "one who works hard;" 1550s, "one who perspires," agent noun from sweat (v.). From 1680s as "a sudorific, that which causes to sweat." Also in 18c. colloquial use, "street ruffian who bullies by violent intimidation" (1712). It is attested by 1843 as "one who exacts hard work at very low wages, one who overworks and underpays" (see sweatshop).ETD sweater (n.).2

    As "woolen vest or jersey," by 1882, originally worn by rowers in training, from earlier sweaters "clothes worn (by a man or horse) to produce sweating and reduce weight" (1828), plural agent noun from sweat (v.).ETD sweater (n.).3

    As a fashion garment for women, it seems to have been established by 1920, after the lifting of wartime restrictions. Sweater girl is attested by 1939, a studio-nickname for Lana Turner (1920-1995), from her brief appearance at 16 in a tight sweater in the Warner Bros. film "They Won't Forget," a scandal-drama released in 1937.ETD sweater (n.).4

    sweaty (adj.)

    late 14c., sweti, "causing sweat; laborious;" 1580s, "moist or stained with sweat," from sweat (n.) + -y (2). Related: Sweatily; sweatiness.ETD sweaty (adj.).2

    sweat-lodge (n.)

    "type of low hut of natural material built for specific spiritual ceremonies by various Native American peoples," 1887, from sweat (n.) + lodge (n.). Earlier was sweat-house (1750); a sweating-house (1660s) was a word for a sauna.ETD sweat-lodge (n.).2

    sweat-pants (n.)

    also sweatpants, "thick, cotton pants worn by athletes before or after exercise to avoid chills," 1924, from sweat (n.) + pants (n.).ETD sweat-pants (n.).2

    sweat-shirt (n.)

    also sweatshirt, "thick, loose, long-sleeved pullover top worn by athletes before or after exercise to avoid chills," by 1905, from sweat (v.) + shirt. In some early uses it refers to a sort of stiffened shirt meant to keep from contact with the skin. Related: Sweatshirted.ETD sweat-shirt (n.).2

    sweatshop (n.)

    also sweat-shop, 1884, American English, in reference to the garment trade, "shop where work is done for a 'sweater,' or on the 'sweating system,' " from sweat (v.) + shop (n.). Earlier, and in England, was sweating-shop (1846).ETD sweatshop (n.).2

    Sweater as "one who exacts hard work from desperate laborers for low wages" emerged in 1843 in England in complaints about a system then in use by tailor-shop owners to farm out work unscrupulously.ETD sweatshop (n.).3

    By 1872 sweating was used broadly in headlines and in the labor movement to mean "advantage taken of unskilled and unorganized workers under the contract system."ETD sweatshop (n.).4

    Swede (n.)

    "native of Sweden," 1610s, from Low German, from Middle Low German Swede, from a source akin to Old English Sweoðeod, literally "Swede-people," from Sweon (plural) "Swedes" (Old Norse, Old Swedish Sviar), called by the Romans Suiones. The name is said to be probably from Proto-Germanic *sweba "free, independent," or else from *geswion "kinsman."ETD Swede (n.).2

    Swede is attested by 1812 in English as short for Swedish turnip, a large variety; hence British English slang Swede-basher "country bumpkin, rustic person" (1938).ETD Swede (n.).3


    c. 1600, originally in Scottish (earlier Swethin, c.1500), from Middle Dutch Sweden, which, with German Schweden probably originally was a dative plural of the source of Middle Dutch Swede (see Swede).ETD Sweden.2

    Earlier in English Sweden was used of the people, and from late 14c. to 17c. Swedeland was the English name of the country. In Old English, the country was Sweoland or Sweorice (compare Old Norse sviariki, source of Swedish Sverige).ETD Sweden.3


    1791, in reference to the Christian denomination that grew from the work of Emanuel Swedenborg (his family name was formalized from Svedberg), Swedish mystic and religious philosopher who lived 1668-1772. His followers organized 1788 as The New Church and based their belief in a new dispensation on Revelations xxi.2.ETD Swedenborgian.2

    Swedish (adj.)

    "pertaining to Sweden or its inhabitants," c. 1600, from Swede + -ish. Similar formation in Dutch Zweedsch, German Schwedisch. Related: Swedishness. As a language name from c. 1600. The candy Swedish fish attested by that name by 1983.ETD Swedish (adj.).2

    sweep (v.)

    early 14c., swepen, "make clean by sweeping with a broom;" mid-14c., "perform the act of sweeping," replacing earlier swope, and perhaps originally the past tense form of it. Middle English swope "sweep" is from Old English swapan "to sweep" (transitive and intransitive), for which see swoop (v.). Or perhaps sweep is from a Scandinavian source cognate to this or an unrecorded Old English *swipian. Related: Swept; sweeping. Swope also was used as a dialectal past tense of sweep.ETD sweep (v.).2

    It is attested from late 14c. as "hasten, rush, move or pass along swiftly and strongly" (intransitive); from c. 1400 in the transitive sense of "drive quickly, impel, move or carry forward by force." It is attested from late 14c. also as "collect (debris, etc.) by sweeping;" mid-15c. as "clear (something) away, remove by or as if by a sweeping blow." By 1630s as "draw or drag something over" (a lake, a minefield, etc.).ETD sweep (v.).3

    By 1892 as "achieve widespread popularity" (as in sweeping the nation). The meaning "win all the events" is by 1960, American English (compare sweepstakes). The sense of "pass the eye systematically over (a surface) in search of something" is from 1727. To sweep (one) off (one's) feet "affect with infatuation" is from 1913.ETD sweep (v.).4

    sweep (n.)

    mid-13c., swope, "a whip, scourge," from the verb (see sweep (v.)) or its Old Norse cognate, or from Old English sweopu. The form replacement with -ee- follows the verb.ETD sweep (n.).2

    The meaning "act or action of sweeping" is from 1550s. It is attested from 1670s as "range or extent of a continued or non-rectilinear motion."ETD sweep (n.).3

    The meaning "rapid survey or inspection by moving the direction of vision" is by 1784. In reference to military (later police) actions that comprehensively move across a wide area, from 1837.ETD sweep (n.).4

    The sense of "a winning of all the tricks in a card game" is from 1814 (see sweepstakes); it was extended in this sense to other sports and contests by 1960. As a shortened form of chimney-sweeper, it is attested by 1796.ETD sweep (n.).5

    sweeper (n.)

    mid-15c., "one who sweeps," also "implement for sweeping" (an oven); early 15c. as a surname, agent noun from sweep (v.). As "a sweeping machine" for a street, etc., by 1862. As a position in soccer (association football) by 1964.ETD sweeper (n.).2

    sweepstakes (n.)

    1773, "prize won in a winner-takes-all race or contest," from Middle English swepe stake, in the phrase make sweep stake "sweep the board, win all the stakes in a game" (late 15c.), from swepen "to sweep" (see sweep (v.)) + stake (n.2).ETD sweepstakes (n.).2

    The notion is of the winner taking all the stakes, rather than the stakes being dividing among the top finishers. The meaning "any race or gambling for stakes contributed" is by 1862. Also compare Middle English wipe the stake in the same sense.ETD sweepstakes (n.).3

    sweer (adj.)

    "inactive, indolent; loath, reluctant, unwilling," Middle English swere, also "grievous, sad," from Old English swær "heavy; sad; oppressive; grievous; sluggish, inactive, weak;" cognate with Old Frisian swer, Old Saxon swar, Middle Dutch swaer, Dutch zwaar, Old High German suari, "heavy," German schwer "difficult," Gothic swers "honored, esteemed," literally "weighty."ETD sweer (adj.).2

    This is probably from a PIE root *sehro- "slow, heavy" (source also of Lithuanian sveriu, sverti "to weigh, lift," svarus "heavy, weighty").ETD sweer (adj.).3

    The physical senses did not survive Old English and the word died out after Middle English.ETD sweer (adj.).4

    sweet (n.)

    c. 1300, "something sweet to the taste," also a term of endearment, "beloved one," from sweet (adj.). From c. 1400 as "a sweet food or drink." The specific meaning "candy drop" is by 1851 (earlier sweetie, 1721). The meaning "one who is dear to another" is from 14c. Old English swete (n.) meant "sweetness."ETD sweet (n.).2

    sweet (adj.)

    Old English swete, Mercian swoete, "pleasing to the senses, mind or feelings; having a pleasant disposition," from Proto-Germanic *swotja- (source also of Old Saxon swoti, Old Frisian swet, Swedish söt, Danish sød, Middle Dutch soete, Dutch zoet, Old High German swuozi, German süß).ETD sweet (adj.).2

    This is reconstructed to be from the PIE root *swād- "sweet, pleasant" (source also of Sanskrit svadus "sweet;" Greek hedys "sweet, pleasant, agreeable," hedone "pleasure;" Latin suavis "pleasant" (not especially of taste), suadere "to advise," properly "to make something pleasant to").ETD sweet (adj.).3

    As "pleasing to the ear" in Old English; in reference to jazz played at a steady tempo and without improvisation, by 1924 (opposed to hot). As "pleasing to the eye, beautiful, desirable" mid-14c. Of persons, "gracious, kind, having pleasant manners," in Old English. Words for "sweet" in the Indo-European languages typically are used in reference to the other sense as well, and in general for "pleasing."ETD sweet (adj.).4

    Also "being in a sound or wholesome state" (mid-13c.), and, of water, "fresh, not salt" (late Old English). In old chemistry, "free from corrosive salts, acids, etc.," 1660s. Hence in the oil industry, in reference to petroleum, "free from sulfur compounds" (1919).ETD sweet (adj.).5

    As "dear to oneself," sometimes sarcastic, by 1620s (take my sweet time). As an intensifier in coarse slang (sweet f-all), by 1958. Sweet Jesus as an imprecation is by 1932.ETD sweet (adj.).6

    To be sweet on (someone) "infatuated with" is by 1690s. Sweet in bed (c. 1300) "has been used with various implications" [OED, 2nd ed. print 1989]. Sweet sixteen is recorded by 1767, in reference to the age, usually of girls.ETD sweet (adj.).7

    A phrase, not a title. Sweet dreams as a parting to one going to bed is attested from 1897, short for sweet dreams to you, etc. Sweet-and-sour in cookery is from 1723 and not originally of Eastern dishes. Sweet nothings "sentimental trivialities," generally whispered in another's ear, is from 1900.ETD sweet (adj.).8

    Sweet spot is from 1976, in reference to tennis rackets and golf swings. Sweet thing "desirable object or person" is by 1887. Sweet corn "sweetened maize" is from 1640s. Sweet singer "religious poet" is by 1550s, especially sweet singer of Israel, adapted from 2 Samuel xxiii.1.ETD sweet (adj.).9

    The word in Chaucer's shoures soote (or schowres swoote) is Middle English sote "sweet to the senses," from Old English swot, a different form from the same Germanic adjective.ETD sweet (adj.).10

    sweetness (n.)

    Middle English swetenesse "quality of being sweet to the taste," also "freshness; delightfulness;" in reference to disposition, "tenderness; loving kindness," from Old English swetnes; see sweet (adj.) + -ness.ETD sweetness (n.).2

    Sweet Adeline

    female barbershop singing group member, 1947, from the name of a popular close harmony song by Richard Armstrong & Harry Gerard, "You're the Flower of my Heart, Sweet Adeline" (1903).ETD Sweet Adeline.2

    sweetback (n.)

    by 1929 in blues lyrics and titles, "a woman's lover;" see sweet (adj.) + back (n.).ETD sweetback (n.).2

    sweetbread (n.)

    "pancreas of an animal used as food" 1560s, from sweet (adj.); the -bread element may be from Old English bræd "flesh" (for which see brawn).ETD sweetbread (n.).2

    sweet-briar (n.)

    "eglantine," type of rose native to Europe, introduced in U.S., often cultivated in gardens, 1530s, from sweet (adj.) + briar (n.).ETD sweet-briar (n.).2

    sweet-cake (n.)

    "cake made with a large amount of sugar," 1726, from sweet (adj.) + cake (n.).ETD sweet-cake (n.).2

    sweeten (v.)

    1550s, intransitive, "become sweet" in any sense, from sweet (adj.) + verbal ending -en (1). The transitive sense ("make sweet") is by 1620s. The earlier verb was simply sweet (from Old English swetan). In reference to upping the stakes in a poker game by 1896. Related: Sweetened; sweetening.ETD sweeten (v.).2

    sweetener (n.)

    1640s, figuratively, of a person, "one who sweetens;" agent noun from sweeten (v.). As "a substance used to neutralize acidity" by 1680s; in reference to food additives by 1884.ETD sweetener (n.).2

    sweetening (n.)

    1590s, "action of making sweet;" 1819, "that which makes sweet," verbal noun from sweeten (v.).ETD sweetening (n.).2

    sweet-grass (n.)

    common name for any type of grass used as fodder, 1570s, from sweet (adj.) + grass (n.). Probably so called in reference to cattle's fondness for it; the name is variously applied in different regions.ETD sweet-grass (n.).2

    sweetheart (n.)

    c. 1300 as a form of address to a child; late 14c. as a synonym for "loved one;" from sweet (adj.) + heart (n.). Properly two words; the Elizabethans began to merge it. Used colloquially in the U.S. by 1942 for anything good of its kind. As an adjective, with reference to labor contracts, it is attested from 1959.ETD sweetheart (n.).2

    sweetie (n.)

    by 1721, "lollipop;" by 1778, "lover, sweetheart," from sweet (n.) + -ie. Extended form sweetie-pie is attested by 1928.ETD sweetie (n.).2

    sweetly (adv.)

    Middle English sweteli, "fragrantly; melodiously; pleasantly; easily, gently," from Old English swetlice; see sweet (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD sweetly (adv.).2

    sweetmeat (n.)

    "a sweet thing to eat," Middle English swete-mete, from Old English swete mete; see sweet (adj.) + meat (n.).ETD sweetmeat (n.).2

    sweet-pea (n.)

    climbing leguminous European plant, 1732, from sweet (adj.) + pea (n.). It is cultivated for its showy and sweet-scented flowers, hence the name.ETD sweet-pea (n.).2

    sweet-potato (n.)

    by 1750, but it is the original potato; see potato.ETD sweet-potato (n.).2

    sweet-talk (v.)

    1935, American English, from noun phrase; see sweet (adj.) + talk (n.). Earliest print uses are in a racial context.ETD sweet-talk (v.).2

    Sweet-mouth (v.) "flatter" is noted in 1948 as a Gullah term. Latin had suaviloquens, literally "sweet-spoken."ETD sweet-talk (v.).3

    sweet tooth (n.)

    "fondness for sugary stuff," late 14c., swete toth, from sweet (adj.) + tooth in the sense of "taste, liking" (see toothsome). Related: Sweet-toothed.ETD sweet tooth (n.).2

    swell (adj.)

    1810, of persons, "fashionably dressed or equipped," from swell (n.) in the "stylish person" sense. Of things, "stylish, elegant," by 1812. In a broader sense of "good, excellent, first-rate of its kind," by 1897; in a weakened sense of "very good" by 1926. Swell as an interjection of satisfaction is recorded by 1930 in American English. Middle English swelle (adj.) meant "proud, arrogant" (c. 1400).ETD swell (adj.).2

    swelling (n.)

    "tumor, morbid enlargement," verbal noun from swell (v.). In Old English "a swollen or distended part;" later especially "tumor, morbid enlargement of a body part." By c. 1400 as "an increase; upward flight, a rising" (as of the sea).ETD swelling (n.).2

    swell (n.)

    c. 1200, swelle, in medicine, "a morbid swelling," from swell (v.). In reference to a rise or long unbroken wave of the sea, it is attested from c. 1600 (earlier of rivers). In reference to ground, "an elevation above a level," by 1764, with more specific sense in geology. Of music (or other sounds), "gradual increase and subsequent decrease in loudness or force," by 1757.ETD swell (n.).2

    The meaning "wealthy, elegant or fashionable person" ["A man of great claims to admiration" - Century Dictionary] is attested by 1786, likely an image of visibly puffed-up demeanor or behavior. It also implied "person who puts on airs, a mere dandy;" compare now-obsolete swell (n.) "pompousness, arrogance" (1724).ETD swell (n.).3

    Thence Thackeray's swelldom "the realm of swells" (1855); swell-mob (1836) "class of pickpockets who go about dressed genteely, the better to mingle unsuspected."ETD swell (n.).4

    swell (v.)

    Middle English swellen, from Old English swellan "grow in bulk, become bigger" (intransitive, past tense sweall, past participle swollen), from Proto-Germanic *swellanan, *swallejanan (source also of Old Saxon swellan, Old Norse svella, Old Frisian swella, Middle Dutch swellen, Dutch zwellen, Old High German swellan, German schwellen "make swell"), which is of unknown origin. "Most likely a substratum etymon" [Boutkan].ETD swell (v.).2

    By c. 1200 as "move or spread upward" (of the sea, etc.), also "become markedly enlarged." In reference to shape, "protuberate, bulge out, belly," as a sail in the wind or the middle of a cask, from 1670s.ETD swell (v.).3

    In reference to emotions, pride, etc., "rise and grow," from late 14c.; of music from 1749. Transitive sense, "make larger in bulk" (also size, amount, number of) is from c. 1400. Related: swelled; swollen; swelling.ETD swell (v.).4

    sweltering (adj.)

    "oppressively hot, suffocating with heat" (of weather, seasons), 1590s, present-participle adjective from swelter (v.). Earlier, in Middle English, "fainting, swooning, ready to perish with heat." Related: Swelteringly.ETD sweltering (adj.).2

    swelter (v.)

    mid-14c., swelteren, "faint or grow weak with heat, be ready to die with heat," frequentative of swelten "be faint" (especially with heat), from Old English sweltan "to die, perish," from Proto-Germanic *swiltan- (source also of Old Saxon sweltan "to die," Old Norse svelta "to put to death, starve," Gothic sviltan "to die").ETD swelter (v.).2

    This is perhaps originally "to burn slowly," hence "to be overcome with heat or fever," from PIE root *swel- (2) "to shine, beam" (see Selene). From the same ancient root comes Old English swelan "to burn." For specialization of words meaning "to die," compare starve.ETD swelter (v.).3

    Figuratively, of the heat of emotion or desire, by 1580s. Related: Sweltered; sweltering.ETD swelter (v.).4

    swelter (n.)

    "a sweltering condition," 1851, from swelter (v.). Middle English had swelt (n.) "a swoon, a faint," from the older form and sense of the verb.ETD swelter (n.).2

    sweltry (adj.)

    for *sweltery, from swelter (v.) + -y (2). By 1570s of weather, etc., "oppressive with heat, sultry;" by 1630s of persons, animals, "oppressed with or suffocating with heat."ETD sweltry (adj.).2


    also swenə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to sound."ETD *swen-.2

    It forms all or part of: assonance; consonant; dissonant; resound; sonant; sonata; sone; sonic; sonnet; sonogram; sonorous; sound (n.1) "noise, what is heard;" sound (v.1) "to be audible;" swan; unison.ETD *swen-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit svanati "it sounds," svanah "sound, tone;" Latin sonus "sound, a noise," sonare "to sound;" Old Irish senim "the playing of an instrument;" Old English geswin "music, song," swinsian "to sing;" Old Norse svanr, Old English swan "swan," properly "the sounding bird."ETD *swen-.4


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to sleep."ETD *swep-.2

    It forms all or part of: hypno-; hypnosis; hypnotic; hypnotism; insomnia; somni-; somnambulate; somniloquy; somnolence; somnolent; Somnus; sopor; soporific.ETD *swep-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit svapnah, Avestan kvafna-, Greek hypnos, Latin somnus, Lithuanian sapnas, Old Church Slavonic sunu, Old Irish suan, Welsh hun "sleep;" Latin sopor "a deep sleep;" Old English swefn, Old Norse svefn "a dream."ETD *swep-.4


    past participle of sweep (v.).ETD swept.2

    swerve (v.)

    c. 1200, swerven, "depart, go make off; turn away or aside;" c. 1300, "turn aside, deviate from a straight course." In form it seems to be from Old English sweorfan "to rub, scour, file away, grind away," but sense development is difficult to trace, and "the sudden emergence of the sense of "turn aside" in ME. is remarkable" [OED 2nd ed. print, 1989].ETD swerve (v.).2

    The Old English word is from Proto-Germanic *swerb- (cf Old Norse sverfa "to scour, file," Old Saxon swebran "to wipe off"), from PIE root *swerbh- "to turn; wipe off."ETD swerve (v.).3

    Cognate words in other Germanic languages (Old Frisian swerva "to creep," Middle Dutch swerven "to rove, roam, stray") suggests the sense of "go off, turn aside" might have existed in Old English, though unrecorded.ETD swerve (v.).4

    In reference to moral actions or courses by c. 1400. Transitive sense of "cause to change course" is from late 14c. The "filing" senses did not survive Old English but are preserved in swarf. Related: Swerved; swerving.ETD swerve (v.).5

    swerve (n.)

    "a turning aside, a deviation from a course," 1741, from swerve (v.). Middle English had swerving (n.) "crookedness" (early 15c.).ETD swerve (n.).2

    swift (n.)

    type of bird (several species of the family Cypselidæ, resembling swallows), 1660s, from swift (adj.) in reference to its rapid flight. The young are swiftlets (1892). It was regarded as a bird of ill-omen, if not downright demonic, probably for its shrill cry. The name earlier had been given to several types of small, fast-moving lizards (1520s).ETD swift (n.).2

    swift (adj.)

    Old English swift "moving quickly, in rapid motion, done at high speed;" perhaps originally "turning quickly," from Proto-Germanic *swip- (see swivel (n.)) with past-participle suffix. By mid-12c. as a surname. By mid-14c. as "prompt or ready to act without delay." Related: Swiftly; swiftness. Obsolete swiftship "ability to run fast" is from c. 1200.ETD swift (adj.).2

    swiftie (n.)

    also swifty, 1945, "fast-moving person," from swift (adj.) + -y (3). As a nickname often ironic. Also from 1945 as "act of deception, trick, sleight" (compare pull a fast one).ETD swiftie (n.).2

    swig (n.)

    1540s, "a drink, liquor," later "big or hearty drink of liquor" (1620s), a word of unknown origin.ETD swig (n.).2

    swig (v.)

    "drink rapidly, gulp down, "1650s, colloquial, from swig (n.). Related: Swigged; swigging.ETD swig (v.).2

    swill (v.)

    Middle English swillen, from Old English swilian, swillan "wash (something) out, swirl (liquid, in a container), gargle," probably from Proto-Germanic *swil-, which is related to the root of swallow (v.). The meaning "drink greedily" is attested from 1530s. Related: Swilled; swilling.ETD swill (v.).2

    swill (n.)

    1550s, "liquid kitchen refuse fed to pigs, liquid food for animals," from swill (v.). As a contemptuous word for "drink, liquor," especially when drunk to excess, by c. 1600.ETD swill (n.).2

    swim (v.)

    Middle English swimmen, from Old English swimman, of a person, fish, bird, "to move in the water, float on the water, move in water by natural means of locomotion" (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, past participle swummen), from Proto-Germanic *swimjan (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German swimman, Old Norse svimma, Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen), from PIE root *swem- "to be in motion."ETD swim (v.).2

    The root sometimes is said to be restricted to Germanic, but according to OED possible cognates are Welsh chwyf "motion," Old Irish do-sennaim "I hunt," Lithuanian sundyti "to chase." The more common Indo-European root is *sna-.ETD swim (v.).3

    The transitive sense of "cross by swimming" is from 1590s. Figurative phrase sink or swim is attested from early 15c. The figurative use of swim with (or against) the tide is by 1590s.ETD swim (v.).4

    The sense of "reel or move unsteadily" is recorded by 1670s in reference to objects seen by a dizzy person; in reference to the head or brain, "be affected by dizziness, have a giddy sensation," from 1702. Compare archaic noun swim "a dizziness, swoon, trance," from Middle English swime "unconscious state," from Old English swima "unconsciousness." The notion appears to be "a swimming in the head." Chaucer has swimbel "giddy motion."ETD swim (v.).5

    swim (n.)

    1540s, "the clear part of any liquid" (above the sediment), a sense now obsolete, from swim (v.). The meaning "act of swimming" is from 1764.ETD swim (n.).2

    The meaning "part of a river or stream frequented by fish" (and hence fishermen) is from 1828, and this likely is the source of the figurative meaning "the current of the latest affairs or events" (as in in the swim "on the inside, involved with the current of events," 1869).ETD swim (n.).3

    swimming (n.)

    late 14c., "act of sustaining and propelling the body through water," verbal noun from swim (v.). The meaning "dizziness" is by 1520s. Swimming hole is attested by 1855, American English; swimming pool is from 1881; earlier in the same sense was swimming-bath (1742).ETD swimming (n.).2

    swimmer (n.)

    late 14c., "one who swims, person or bird that swims," agent noun from swim (v.). By 1816 as "swimming appendage of an animal." Swimmist (1881) seems to have been confined to the sports pages.ETD swimmer (n.).2

    swimmeret (n.)

    "swimming-foot of a crustacean; limb or appendage adapted for swimming," 1840, from swimmer (n.) + diminutive suffix -let. Related: Swimmerets.ETD swimmeret (n.).2

    swimmingly (adv.)

    "with steady, smooth progress; in an easy, gliding manner," 1620s, from swimming + -ly (2).ETD swimmingly (adv.).2

    swimsuit (n.)

    also swim-suit, 1920, "women's bathing costume," a commercial word, from swim with a notion of "worn while swimming" + suit (n.). Swimming-costume in the same sense is by 1904.ETD swimsuit (n.).2

    swindle (v.)

    "to cheat, defraud," 1782, a back-formation from swindler "cheater" (q.v.). Related: Swindled; swindling. The noun in the sense of "act of swindling, fraudulent scheme" is implied by 1833. The travelling agent's jocular swindle-sheet "expense account" is by 1923.ETD swindle (v.).2

    swindler (n.)

    "one who cheats others, one who practices fraud or imposition," 1774, from German Schwindler "giddy person, extravagant speculator, cheat," from schwindeln "to be giddy, act extravagantly, swindle," from Old High German swintilon "be giddy," frequentative form of swintan "to languish, disappear;" cognate with Old English swindan, and probably with swima "dizziness" (see swim (v.)). The words is "said to have been introduced into London by German Jews about 1762" [OED, 2nd ed. print, 1989].ETD swindler (n.).2

    swine (n.)

    Old English swin "domestic pig, hog, sow; wild boar" (commonly used in a plural sense, of such animals collectively), from Proto-Germanic *sweina- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian Middle Low German, Old High German swin, Middle Dutch swijn, Dutch zwijn, German Schwein, Old Norse, Swedish, Danish svin), neuter adjective (with suffix *-ino-). This is from PIE *su- "pig" (see sow (n.)).ETD swine (n.).2

    The native word, it has been largely ousted by pig (n.1). Applied to persons from late 14c., "mean or degraded, sensual and coarse." The phrase pearls before swine (mid-14c.) is from Matthew vii.6; an early English formation of it was:ETD swine (n.).3

    The Latin word in the Gospel verse was confused in French with marguerite "daisy" (the "pearl" of the field), and in Dutch the expression became "roses before swine." Swine-drunk is from 1590s (Nashe). Swine-flu is attested from 1921. Earlier terms for infectious pig diseases include swine-plague (1891); swine-pox was originally "chicken pox" (1520s); it is attested from 1764 as a disease of swine.ETD swine (n.).4

    swineherd (n.)

    "one who tends or keeps swine," later Old English swinhyrde; see swine + herd (n.2).ETD swineherd (n.).2

    A Greek word for it was sybōtēs (from sys "pig" + boskein "to feed"), hence English sybotic "of, like, or befitting a swineherd" (1876).ETD swineherd (n.).3

    swinery (n.)

    1778, "place where swine are kept, pigpen," from swine + -ery. Also "swinish persons collectively" (by 1849).ETD swinery (n.).2

    swinging (adj.)

    1550s, "moving to and fro," present-participle adjective from swing (v.). By 1730 as "made or adapted to turn freely in either direction." The meaning "marked by a free, sweeping movement" is from 1818. The figurative sense of "uninhibited" is from 1958.ETD swinging (adj.).2

    swing (v.)

    Middle English swingen "cause to move, throw, cast, fling; move, dash, rush;" also "deliver a blow, smite with a weapon," from Old English swingan "to beat, strike; scourge, flog; to rush, fling oneself" (strong verb, past tense swang, past participle swungen). This is from Proto-Germanic *swangwi- (source also of Middle Dutch swingen, Old Saxon, Old High German swingan "to swing," Old Frisian swinga "pour," German schwingen "to swing, swingle, oscillate"), which is of uncertain origin and might be in Germanic only. Swirl, switch, swivel, swoop are sometimes considered to be from the same source. Boutkan finds Pokorny's IE reconstruction implausible for formal and semantic reasons.ETD swing (v.).2

    The meaning "move freely back and forth," as a body suspended from a fixed point, is recorded by 1540s; that of "move with a swinging step" is by 1854. The transitive sense "cause to sway or oscillate" is from 1550s. From 1660s as "ride on a swing;" colloquially, "be hanged," 1520s.ETD swing (v.).3

    The sense of "bring about, make happen" is by 1934. Related: Swung; swinging. Swing-voter "independent or independent-minded voter" is from 1966; so called perhaps because they often "swing" an election to one or the other party.ETD swing (v.).4

    swing (n.)

    Old English swinge "a stroke, blow with a weapon; chastisement," from the verb (see swing (v.)). Some later senses developed directly from the modern verb.ETD swing (n.).2

    By late 15c. generally as "an act or motion of swinging, the sweep of a body moving in suspension" (used with much latitude). The meaning "suspended seat on ropes fastened to points of support" is from 1680s. The sense of "free-swinging movement or gait" is by 1730. The meaning "shift of public opinion" is from 1899.ETD swing (n.).3

    The meaning "variety of big dance-band music with a swinging rhythm" based on the performer's lag or rush of the time, is attested by 1933, though the sense has been traced back to 1888. An all-but-ineffable quality yet what wants it don't mean a thing; its heyday was mid-1930s to mid-1940s.ETD swing (n.).4

    Phrase in full swing "in total effect or operation" (1560s) perhaps is from bell-ringing. The backyard or playground swing-set "one or more children's swings on a rigid frame" is by 1912, American English.ETD swing (n.).5

    swinger (n.)

    1540s, "one who or that which swings," agent noun from swing (v.). Old English swingere (n.) meant "one who strikes, a scourger."ETD swinger (n.).2

    Also "anything big or great; a bold lie" (1580s, a sense now obsolete). The meaning "person who is sexually promiscuous" is from 1964, from the verb in the sense of "engage in promiscuous sex" (also 1964); earlier, more generally, "enjoy oneself unconventionally" (1957). Cant swinger "rogue, rascal, scoundrel" (c. 1500) is perhaps from Flemish or Low German.ETD swinger (n.).3

    swingle (n.)

    "wooden instrument for beating flax," early 14c., from Middle Dutch swinghel "swingle for flax," and partly, with narrowing of sense, from cognate Old English swingell "beating, scourging, punishment, chastisement;" also "stick to beat, whip, scourge, rod," a formation from swingan "to beat, strike, whip" (see swing (v.)) + instrumental suffix -el (1). It later was extended to similar mechanisms.ETD swingle (n.).2

    swingletree (n.)

    "pivoted crossbar to which the traces are fastened in a cart, carriage, or plow," late 15c., swingletre, earlier swing-tree (late 14c.), from swing (v.) + tree (n.) in an obsolete Middle English sense of "pole." The elaboration of swing into swingle is perhaps on the notion of "that which swings."ETD swingletree (n.).2

    swing-shift (n.)

    "work shift between a standard day and night shift," 1941; see swing (v.) + shift (n.). Typically 4 p.m. to midnight; said to be so called from the notion of "facing both ways."ETD swing-shift (n.).2

    swinish (adj.)

    c. 1200, originally of persons or behavior, "like or befitting a swine; gluttonous, sensual, degraded, beastly," from swine + -ish. As "of or pertaining to a swine," early 15c. Related: Swinishly; swinishness. Similar formation in German schweinisch. Old English had swinlic in same sense.ETD swinish (adj.).2

    swipe (n.)

    1807, "heavy blow, driving stroke made with the arms in full swing," colloquial, perhaps (OED, 2nd ed. print, 1989) a dialectal variant of sweep (n.), or in part from obsolete swip, swaip "a stroke, blow" (Old English swapan), related to Old English swipu "a stick, whip; chastisement." Other possible sources or influences are Middle English swope "to sweep with broad movements" (in reference to brooms, swords, etc.); or obsolete swape "oar, pole." All seem to be more or less connected.ETD swipe (n.).2

    swipe (v.)

    1825, Scottish, "give a stroke with a sweeping motion," from swipe (n.). Originally colloquial. Also "gulp down (a drink)," 1829. The slang sense of "steal by snatching, pilfer" is by 1885, American English, in prison jargon:ETD swipe (v.).2

    The meaning "run a credit card" is from 1985. Related: Swiped; swiping. Swiper is 1853 as "one who gives a strong blow;" 1832 as "copious drunkard."ETD swipe (v.).3

    swirl (n.)

    early 15c., "whirlpool, eddy," originally Scottish, a word of uncertain origin (see swirl (v.)). The meaning "whirling movement" is from 1818. As "a twist or convolution" (in hair, the grain of wood, etc.) by 1786. As the name of a fairground ride by 1962.ETD swirl (n.).2

    swirl (v.)

    1510s, transitive, "give a swirling or eddying motion to" (with an isolated instance from 14c.); perhaps from a continental Germanic source (compare Dutch zwirrelen, Norwegian dialect svirla "to whirl") or from swirl (n.). The intransitive sense, "have a whirling motion, form or whirl in eddies," is from 1755. Related: Swirled; swirling.ETD swirl (v.).2

    swirly (adj.)

    1785, "twisted, knotty;" 1849, "whirling, eddying;" from swirl (n.) + -y (2). By 1912 as "full of contortions or twists" (swirling in this sense is by 1807).ETD swirly (adj.).2

    swish (n.)

    1820, with a swish, expressive of the sound of something moving through the air, from swish (v.). The sense of "effeminate homosexual" is 1930s in homosexual slang, probably from notion of mincing motion. The slang meaning "flog, lash" is by 1856. Related: Swishy (adj.).ETD swish (n.).2

    swish (v.)

    1756, intransitive, "move with a swish or flourish or with a sound like 'swish;' " 1799, transitive, "cause to swish," hence "flourish, brandish;" probably imitative of the sound made by something brushing against or through something else. Related: Swished; swishing.ETD swish (v.).2

    Swiss (n.)

    "native or inhabitant of Switzerland," 1510s, from French Suisse, from Middle High German Suizer, from Suiz "Switzerland" (see Switzerland). Alternative Switzer (1570s) "a Swiss" now is archaic (compare German Schweizer). English also used Swisser.ETD Swiss (n.).2

    As an adjective from 1520s, "of or belonging to Switzerland or the Swiss." Swiss Guards, in reference to a mercenary troop protecting a sovereign, is by 1700. Swiss banks were notable by 1949 for assuring anonymity and security. Swiss cheese is attested from 1808; colloquially as a type of something "full of holes," by 1924.ETD Swiss (n.).3

    switch (n.)

    1590s, "slender riding whip," probably from a variant of a Flemish or Low German word akin to Middle Dutch swijch "bough, twig," or from swutsche, variant of Low German zwukse "long thin stick, switch," from Germanic *swih- (source also of Old High German zwec "wooden peg," German Zweck "aim, design," originally "peg as a target," Zwick "wooden peg"). Perhaps this is related to the sway/swirl/swag/swing group.ETD switch (n.).2

    Originally especially in phrase switch and spurs, indicating great haste. The "thin bough, twig" sense in English is by c. 1600. Also "a long bunch of (false) hair" (1870).ETD switch (n.).3

    The meaning "mechanical device for changing the direction of a moving body from one course to another" is attested by 1797 of (horse-drawn) railways.ETD switch (n.).4

    "The peg sense suits the mech(anical) applications" [Weekley]; also compare switchblade. These senses in English might be a direct borrowing from those senses in continental Germanic languages rather than a continuation of the older "pliant wand" sense.ETD switch (n.).5

    The meaning "a change from one to another, reversal, an exchange, substitution" is attested by 1920 originally slang; the extended form switcheroo is attested by 1933.ETD switch (n.).6

    switch (v.)

    1610s, "strike with a switch, lash," from switch (n.). Related: Switched; switching.ETD switch (v.).2

    The meaning "turn (off or on) with a switch device" developed from the specific use in railways, "transfer from one line of rails to another by as switch," attested by 1853. It was used by 1881 of electrical currents transferred to another circuit, by 1932 of radio (later television).ETD switch (v.).3

    The broad sense of "shift, divert" is from 1860. The meaning "change one thing for another" is recorded from 1919.ETD switch (v.).4

    switchable (adj.)

    "able to be switched" in technical senses, 1954, from switch (v.) + -able.ETD switchable (adj.).2

    switchback (n.)

    in reference to zig-zag railways for ascending and descending steep slopes, 1863, from switch (v.) + back (adv.). As an adjective, "characterized by alternate motion," from 1873.ETD switchback (n.).2

    switchblade (n.)

    also switch-blade, 1930 as a type of folding pocket knife, short for switch-blade knife (1926), from switch (n.) + blade. So called for the "switch" which is pressed to spring it open. Earlier a similar device was an Arkansas toothpick (1837) and a clasp-knife (1755).ETD switchblade (n.).2

    switchboard (n.)

    also switch-board, "device for making interchangeable connections between many circuits," 1867, in telegraphy, from switch (n.) + board (n.1).ETD switchboard (n.).2

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