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Alternative formsEdit


From a fusion of Middle English swam (swamp, muddy pool, bog, marsh”, also “fungus, mushroom), from Old English swamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), and Middle English sompe (marsh, morass), from Middle Dutch somp, sump (marsh, swamp), or Middle Low German sump (marsh, swamp), from Old Saxon *sump (swamp, marsh); all from Proto-West Germanic *sump, from Proto-Germanic *sumpaz.

Cognate with Dutch zwamp (swamp, marsh, fen), Middle Low German swamp (sponge, mushroom), Dutch zomp (swamp, lake, marshy place), German Low German Sump (swamp, bog, marsh), German Sumpf (swamp), Swedish sump (swamp). Related also to Dutch zwam (fungus, punk, tinder), German Schwamm (mushroom, fungus, sponge), Swedish svamp (mushroom, fungus, sponge), Icelandic svampur, sveppur (fungus), Gothic 𐍃𐍅𐌿𐌼𐍃𐌻 (swumsl, a ditch). Related to sump, swim.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /swɒmp/
  • (US) IPA(key): /swɑmp/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɒmp


swamp (plural swamps)

  1. A piece of wet, spongy land; low ground saturated with water; soft, wet ground which may have a growth of certain kinds of trees, but is unfit for agricultural or pastoral purposes.
  2. A type of wetland that stretches for vast distances, and is home to many creatures which have adapted specifically to that environment.
  3. (figurative) A place or situation that is foul or where progress is difficult.
    • 2017, Cassandra Clark, Alchemist of Netley Abbey:
      We two...in this swamp of iniquity...together we can bring redress to an unjust world.

Derived termsEdit


  • Sranan Tongo: swampu
  • Dutch: zwamp


See alsoEdit


swamp (third-person singular simple present swamps, present participle swamping, simple past and past participle swamped)

  1. To drench or fill with water.
    The boat was swamped in the storm.
  2. (figurative) To overwhelm; to make too busy, or overrun the capacity of.
    I have been swamped with paperwork ever since they started using the new system.
    • 1991 May 5, Stewart Ain, “Bottom Falls Out Of Summer Job Market”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      "I'm being swamped now with calls from parents and young people who are upset that there are not many options for employment this summer," he said.
    • 2006 September 13, Patrick Healy, “Spitzer and Clinton Win in N.Y. Primary”, in The New York Times[2], →ISSN:
      Mr. Spitzer’s defeat of his Democratic opponent [] ended a primary season in which Hillary Rodham Clinton swamped an antiwar challenger for renomination to the Senate.
    • 2018 February 10, Phil McNulty, “Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 0 Arsenal”, in BBC[3]:
      It was only the outstanding Cech that stood between Arsenal and a second-half rout as Spurs simply swamped their opponents after the break with a formidable display of power, pace and sheer intensity.
  3. (figurative) To plunge into difficulties and perils; to overwhelm; to ruin; to wreck.
    • 1874, John Richard Green, A Short History of the English People:
      The Whig majority of the house of Lords was swamped by the creation of twelve Tory peers.
    • c. 1835, William Hamilton, "Metaphysics and Moral Science", in Edinburgh Review
      Having swamped himself in following the ignis fatuus of a theory []