- svelte (adj.)
- "slender, lithe," 1817, from French svelte "slim, slender" (17c.), from Italian svelto "slim, slender," originally "pulled out, lengthened," past participle of svellere "to pluck or root out," from Vulgar Latin *exvellere, from Latin ex- "out" (see ex-) + vellere "to pluck, stretch," from PIE *wel-no-, suffixed form of root *wel- (4) "to tear, pull."
- "one who exerts controlling or mesmeric influence on another," 1914, from hypnotist character of that name in the novel "Trilby" (1894) by George Du Maurier.
- swab (n.)
- 1650s, "mop made of rope or yarn," from swabber (c.1600) "mop for cleaning a ship's deck," from Dutch zwabber, akin to West Frisian swabber "mop," from Proto-Germanic *swabb-, perhaps of imitative origin, denoting back-and-forth motion, especially in liquid.
Non-nautical meaning "anything used for mopping up" is from 1787; as "cloth or sponge on a handle to cleanse the mouth, etc.," from 1854. Slang meaning "a sailor" first attested 1798, short for swabber "member of a ship's crew assigned to swab decks" (1590s), which by c.1600 was being used in a broader sense of "one who behaves like a low-ranking sailor, one fit only to use a swab."
- swab (v.)
- 1719, possibly a back-formation from swabber (see swab (n.)). Related: Swabbed; swabbing. Related: Swabification "mopping" (1833).
- former duchy in central Germany, from Medieval Latin Suabia (German Schwaben), named for the Germanic tribe called by the Romans Suebi, said to be from Proto-Germanic *sweba, perhaps ultimately from PIE root *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (referring back to the subject of a sentence), also used in forms denoting the speaker's social group, "(we our-)selves."
- 1785; see from Swabia + -an. The Swabian emperors (1138-1254) were so called because the founder of the line was duke of Swabia.
- swaddle (v.)
- "bind with long strips of cloth," late 15c. alteration of Middle English swathlen (c.1200), probably a frequentative form of Old English swaþian (see swathe). Related: Swaddled; swaddling. Phrase swaddling clothes is from Coverdale (1535) translation of Luke ii:7.
Young children ... are still bandaged in this manner in many parts of Europe to prevent them from using their limbs freely, owing to a fancy that those who are left free in infancy become deformed. [Century Dictionary, 1891]
Wyclif uses swathing-clothes (late 14c.).
- swag (v.)
- "to move heavily or unsteadily," 1520s, probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse sveggja "to swing, sway," from the same source as Old English swingan "to swing" (see swing (v.)). Related: Swagged; swagging.
- swag (n.)
- 1650s, "a lurching or swaying," from swag (v.). Meaning "ornamental festoon" (1794) is said to be probably a separate development from the verb (but cf. swage). Swag lamp attested from 1966.
Colloquial sense of "promotional material" (from recording companies, etc.) was in use by 2001; swag was English criminal's slang for "quantity of stolen property, loot" from c.1839. This might be related to earlier senses of "round bag" (c.1300) and "big, blustering fellow" (1580s), which may represent separate borrowings from the Scandinavian source. "The primary meaning was 'a bulging bag'" [Klein].
- swage (v.)
- "to shape or bend by use of a tool," 1831, from swage (n.), also swedge, "tool or die for bending cold metal" (1812), from French suage, according to Century Dictionary from suer "to sweat." Uncertain connection to swage "ornamental moulding" (late 14c.), from Old French souage (Modern French suage), which, according to Klein, is from soue "rope," from Vulgar Latin *soca, probably of Gaulish origin (cf. Breton sug "cord").
- swager (n.)
- 1881, agent noun from swage.
- swagger (v.)
- 1580s, "to strut in a defiant or insolent manner;" earliest recorded usages are in Shakespeare ("Midsummer Night's Dream," "2 Henry IV," "King Lear"), probably a frequentative form of swag (v.) "to sway." Meaning "to boast or brag" is from 1590s. Related: Swaggered; swaggering. The noun is attested from 1725.
- swaggerer (n.)
- 1590s, agent noun from swagger (v.).
- name of a Bantu people inhabiting the coast of South Africa, 1814, literally "coast-dwellers," from Arabic sawahil, plural of sahil "coast" + ethnic suffix -i.
- swain (n.)
- mid-12c., "young man attendant upon a knight," from Old Norse sveinn "boy, servant, attendant," from Proto-Germanic *swainaz "attendant, servant," properly "one's own (man)," from PIE *swoi-no-, from root *s(w)e- "oneself, alone, apart" (see idiom). Cognate with Old English swan "shepherd, swineherd," Old Saxon swen, Old High German swein. Meaning "country or farm laborer" is from 1570s; that of "lover, wooer" (in pastoral poetry) is from 1580s.
- acronym for sealed with a kiss, attested from 1911, in a legal publication quoting a letter from 1909:
"... Well Kid I don't know nothing else to say only that I hope to see your sweet face Sat. Good by from your Dear Husban to his sweet little wife. P. S. excuse bad writing and mispelled words take all mistakes as kisses. S.W.A.K. * * *" This letter was postmarked at Des Moines October 20, 1909, addressed to Carrie Sprague at Jefferson, Iowa, and reached the latter place October 21, 1909. [State v. Manning (a conspiracy-to-lure-women-to-prostitution case), Supreme Court of Iowa, Nov. 16, 1910, reported in "Northwestern Reporter," Volume 128, 1911]
Popularized in soldiers' letters home in World War I. It probably is meant also to echo the sound of a kiss. Cf. Middle English swack "a hard blow" (late 14c.).
- swale (n.)
- "low, hollow place, often boggy," 1580s, special use of Scottish swaill "low, hollow place," or East Anglian dialectal swale "shady place" (mid-15c.); both probably from Old Norse svalr "cool," from Proto-Germanic *swalaz. A local word in England, in U.S. given broad application, especially to the lower tracts of the prairie and recently to landscaping features in suburban developments.
- swallow (v.)
- "ingest through the throat" (transitive), Old English swelgan "swallow, imbibe, absorb" (class III strong verb; past tense swealg, past participle swolgen), from Proto-Germanic *swelgan/*swelhan (cf. Old Saxon farswelgan, Old Norse svelgja "to swallow," Middle Dutch swelghen, Dutch zwelgen "to gulp, swallow," Old High German swelahan "to swallow," German schwelgen "to revel"), probably from PIE root *swel- (1) "to eat, drink" (cf. Iranian *khvara- "eating").
Intransitive sense "perform the act of swallowing" is from c.1700. Sense of "consume, destroy" is attested from mid-14c. Meaning "to accept without question" is from 1590s. Related: Swallowed; swallowing.
- swallow (n.1)
- type of migratory bird (family Hirundinidae), Old English swealwe "swallow," from Proto-Germanic *swalwon (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Swedish svala, Danish svale, Middle Dutch zwalewe, Dutch zwaluw, Old High German swalawa, German Schwalbe), from PIE *swol-wi- (cf. Russian solowej, Slovak slavik, Polish słowik "nightingale"). The etymological sense is disputed. Popularly regarded as harbingers of summer; swallows building nests on or near a house is considered good luck.
- swallow (n.2)
- "an act of swallowing," 1822, from swallow (v.). In late Old English and Middle English it meant "gulf, abyss, hole in the earth, whirlpool," also, in Middle English, "throat, gullet." Cf. Old Norse svelgr "whirlpool," literally "devourer, swallower." Meaning "as much as one can swallow at once, mouthful" is from 1861.
- swallowtail (n.)
- also swallow-tail, 1540s as a type of arrowhead, from swallow (n.1) + tail (n.). Of a type of butterfly, by 1776; of a type of coat, 1835. As an adjective from 1590s. The bird's tail is long and deeply forked.
- past tense of swim (v.).
- swami (n.)
- 1773, "Hindu idol," later, "Hindu religious teacher" (1901), from Hindi swami "master" (used as a term of address to a Brahmin), from Sanskrit svamin "lord, prince, master, (one's own) master," from sva-s "one's own" (from PIE *s(u)w-o- "one's own," from root *s(w)e-; see idiom) + amah "pressure, vehemence."
- swamp (v.)
- "overwhelm, sink (as if in a swamp)," 1772, from swamp (n.). Figurative sense is from 1818. Related: Swamped; swamping.
- swamp (n.)
- c.1500 (implied in swampwatyr "swamp-water"), of uncertain origin, perhaps [Barnhart] a dialectal survival from an Old English cognate of Old Norse svöppr "sponge, fungus," from Proto-Germanic *swampuz; but traditionally connected with Middle English sompe "morass, swamp," which probably is from Middle Dutch somp or Middle Low German sump "swamp" (see sump). All of these likely are ultimately related to each other, from PIE *swombho- "spongy; mushroom," via the notion of "spongy ground."
[B]y swamps then in general is to be understood any low grounds subject to inundations, distinguished from marshes, in having a large growth of timber, and much underwood, canes, reeds, wythes, vines, briers, and such like, so matted together, that they are in a great measure impenetrable to man or beast .... [Bernard Romans, "A Concise History of East and West Florida," 1775]
More popular in U.S. (swamp (n.) by itself is first attested 1624 in Capt. John Smith's description of Virginia). Swamp-oak is from 1680s, American English. Swamp Yankee "rural, rustic New Englander" is attested from 1941. Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) has swamp-angel "dweller in a swamp," swamp-law "might makes right."
- swamp-land (n.)
- 1660s, from swamp (n.) + land (n.).
- swamper (n.)
- 1735, "one who lives in a swampy district," from swamp (n.). Meaning "workman who clears a lumber road through swamp or forest" is 1857, American English; meaning "all-purpose assistant in a restaurant or saloon" is from 1907.
- swampy (adj.)
- 1690s, from swamp (n.) + -y (2). Related: Swampiness.
- swan (n.)
- Old English swan "swan," from Proto-Germanic *swanaz "singer" (cf. Old Saxon swan, Old Norse svanr, Danish svane, Swedish svan, Middle Dutch swane, Dutch zwaan, Old High German swan, German Schwan), probably literally "the singing bird," from PIE root *swen- "to sing, make sound" (see sound (n.1)); thus related to Old English geswin "melody, song" and swinsian "to make melody."
In classical mythology, sacred to Apollo and to Venus. The singing of swans before death was alluded to by Chaucer (late 14c.), but swan-song (1831) is a translation of German Schwanengesang. The ancient Indo-European mythical swan-maiden so called by mythographers from 1829. Swan dive is recorded from 1898. A black swan was proverbial for "something extremely rare or non-existent" (late 14c.), after Juvenal ["Sat." vi. 164], but later they turned up in Australia (Chenopsis atratus).
"Do you say no worthy wife is to be found among all these crowds?" Well, let her be handsome, charming, rich and fertile; let her have ancient ancestors ranged about her halls; let her be more chaste than all the dishevelled Sabine maidens who stopped the war--a prodigy as rare upon the earth as a black swan! yet who could endure a wife that possessed all perfections? I would rather have a Venusian wench for my wife than you, O Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, if, with all your virtues, you bring me a haughty brow, and reckon up Triumphs as part of your marriage portion. [Juvenal]
- in Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home," river in Georgia and Florida, usually Suwanee, sometimes said to be a corruption of Spanish San Juan [Room]; Bright says the river name is from the Cherokee village of Sawani, for which no etymology is offered.
- obsolete past tense of swing (v.).
- swank (adj.)
- "stylish, classy, posh," 1913, from earlier noun or verb; "A midland and s.w. dial. word taken into general slang use at the beginning of the 20th cent." [OED]; e.g. swank (n.) "ostentatious behavior," noted in 1854 as a Northampton word; swank (v.), from 1809 as "to strut, behave ostentatiously." Perhaps ultimately from Proto-Germanic *swank-, from PIE *sweng(w)-, a Germanic root meaning "to swing, turn, toss" (cf. Middle High German swanken "to sway, totter, turn, swing," Old High German swingan "to swing;" see swing (v.)). Perhaps the notion is of "swinging" the body ostentatiously (cf. swagger).
A separate word-thread derives from Old English swancor "pliant, bending," and from this comes swanky (n.) "active or clever young fellow" (c.1500).
- swanky (adj.)
- "imposing, stylish," 1842, from swank + -y (2). Related: swankiness.
- a Scandinavian name, probably literally "Sveinn's Island."
- swap (v.)
- c.1200, "to strike, strike the hands together," of uncertain origin, possibly imitative of the sound of hitting or slapping. The sense of "to exchange, barter, trade" is first recorded 1590s, possibly from the notion of slapping hands together as a sign of agreement in bargaining (cf. strike a bargain). Related: Swapped; swapping. The noun in this sense is attested from 1620s; earlier "a striking, an act of striking" (mid-13c.). Swap-meet attested from 1968, American English.
- sward (n.)
- "grass-covered ground," c.1300, from Old English sweard "skin, hide, rind" (of bacon, etc.), from Proto-Germanic *swarthu- (cf. Old Frisian swarde "skin of the head," Middle Dutch swarde "rind of bacon," Dutch zwoord "rind of bacon," German Schwarte "thick, hard skin, rind," Old Norse svörðr "walrus hide"). Meaning "sod, turf" developed from the notion of the "skin" of the earth (cf. Old Norse grassvörðr, Danish grønsvær "greensward").
- obsolete or archaic past tense of swear (v.), common 15c.-17c. by analogy of past tense of bear (v.).
- swarf (n.)
- "grit from a grinding tool," 1560s, perhaps ultimately from Old English geswearf "filings," from sweorfan, or from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse svarf "file dust," related to sverfa "to file," from PIE *swerbh- "to turn, wipe off" (see swerve (v.)). Later used of the material cut out to make grooves of gramophone records (1935).
- swarm (n.)
- "cloud of bees or other insects," Old English swearm "swarm, multitude," from Proto-Germanic *swarmaz (cf. Old Saxon, Middle Low German swarm, Danish sværm "a swarm," Swedish svärm, Middle Dutch swerm, Old High German swaram, German Schwarm "swarm;" Old Norse svarmr "tumult"), by Watkins, etc., derived from PIE imitative root *swer- (2) "to buzz, whisper" (see susurration) on notion of humming sound, and thus probably originally of bees. But OED suggests possible connection with base of swerve and ground sense of "agitated, confused, or deflected motion." General sense "large, dense throng" is from early 15c.
- swarm (v.1)
- "to climb (a tree, pole, etc.) by clasping with the arms and legs alternately, to shin," 1540s, of uncertain origin. "Perh. orig. a sailor's word borrowed from the Continent, but no trace of the meaning has been discovered for phonetically corresponding words" [OED]. perhaps originally a sailors' word, of uncertain origin. Also recorded as swarve (16c.) and in Northern dialects swarble, swarmle. Related: Swarmed; swarming.
- swarm (v.2)
- "to leave a hive to start another," also "to gather in a swarm, crowd, or throng," late 14c., from swarm (n.). Cf. Dutch zwermen, German schwärmen, Danish sværme. Related: Swarmed; swarming.
- swart (adj.)
- Old English sweart "black, dark," of night, clouds, also figurative, "wicked, infamous," from Proto-Germanic *swarta- (cf. Old Frisian, Old Saxon, and Middle Dutch swart, Dutch zwart, Old Norse svartr, German schwarz, Gothic swarts "dark-colored, black"), from PIE root *swordo- "dirty, dark, black" (source of sordid). The true Germanic word, surviving in the Continental languages, displaced in English by black. Of skin color of persons from late 14c. Related: Swartest.
- swarthy (adj.)
- "dark-colored," especially of skin, 1580s, unexplained alteration of swarty (1570s), from swart + -y (2). Related: Swarthiness.
- swash (n.)
- 1530s, "the fall of a heavy body or blow," probably imitative. It also meant "pig-wash, filth, wet refuse" (1520s) and may have been imitative of the sound of water dashing against solid objects. The meaning "a body of splashing water" is first found 1670s; that of "a dashing or splashing" is from 1847. Swash-letters (1883) are italic capitals with flourished projections.
- swash (v.)
- 1580s, "spill or splash (water) about," 1530s, possibly from wash (v.) with an intensifying s-, or imitative of the sound of water dashing against solid objects. Related: Swashed; swashing.
- swashbuckle (v.)
- 1897, back-formation from swashbuckling.
- swashbuckler (n.)
- also swash-buckler, 1550s, "blustering, swaggering fighting man" (earlier simply swash, 1540s), from swash "fall of a blow" (see swash) + buckler "shield." The original sense seems to have been "one who makes menacing noises by striking his or an opponent's shield."
- swashbuckling (adj.)
- 1690s, adjective formed to go with swashbuckler (q.v.).
- swastika (n.)
- Greek cross with arms bent at right angles, 1871 (in English specifically as emblem of the Nazi party from 1932), from Sanskrit svastika-s, literally "being fortunate," from svasti-s "well-being, luck," from su- "well" (from PIE *(e)su- "good") + as-, root of asti "(he) is," which is from the same PIE root as Latin esse "to be" (see essence).
Also known as gammadion (Byzantine), cross cramponnee (heraldry), Thor's hammer, and, perhaps, fylfot. Originally an ancient cosmic or religious symbol thought to bring good luck. Use in reference to the Nazi emblem first recorded in English in 1932. The German word was Hakenkreuz, literally "hook-cross."
- swat (v.)
- 1796, American English and northern England dialect word, possibly an alteration of Middle English swap "to strike, smite" (see swap), ultimately of imitative origin. Related: Swatted; swatting. The noun is recorded from 1800.