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Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English *swarf, *swerf, from Old English ġeswearf, ġesweorf (iron filings; rust) and/or Old Norse svarf (metallic dust), both from Proto-Germanic *swarbą (that which is rubbed off; shavings), from Proto-Germanic *swerbaną (to wipe; rub off; mop). Akin to Old English sweorfan (to rub; scour; file)[1]. More at swerve.


swarf (countable and uncountable, plural swarfs)

  1. The waste chips or shavings from an abrasive activity, such as metalworking, a saw cutting wood, or the use of a grindstone or whetstone.
    • 1861, John Henry Pepper, The Playbook of Metals: Including Personal Narratives of Visits to Coal, Lead, Copper, and Tin Mines; with a Large Number of Interesting Experiments Relating to Alchemy and the Chemistry of the Fifty Metallic Elements:
      The softest and almost the cleanest iron for turning for cotton and other machinery is made from wrought iron swarf (or turnings). Sometimes the swarf is worked by itself, but commonly a ball is made of good swarf, and while hot, fine swarf is thrown into the furnace, and the ball is rolled about so that the swarf adheres to it, and it is then taken to the hammer.
    • 2004, Traditional Finishing Techniques, page 5:
      As sandpaper is pushed across wood, the abrasive grains dig into the surface and cut out minute shavings, which are called swarf in industry jargon.
    • 2011, Constantine A. Balanis, Modern Antenna Handbook:
      Turning of the internal features of horn antennas is an operation where particular attention must be paid to swarf control. Techniques such as the use of extreme flood coolant, interrupting the feed to break swarf, and regular withdrawals of the tool to clear the working area may be necessary, particular on CNC machines where the operator has no "feel" or sight of the process.
  2. A particular waste chip or shaving.
    • 1940, The Metal Industry, volume 56, page 456:
      These swarfs, especially if they are of the tin bronze type, can usually be re-melted, after passing over a magnetic separator, by adding a small percentage to each charge of the alloy issued to the foundry for melting.
    • 1979, Cormac McCarthy, Suttree, Random House, page 95:
      Harrogate looked at the ground. A black swarf packed with small parts in a greasy mosaic.
    • 2017, Yoshimi Ito, ‎Takashi Matsumura, Theory and Practice in Machining Systems, page 226:
      When the uncut swarf thickness increases beyond the minimum swarf thickness, the elastic deformation phenomena decrease significantly and the entire depth of cut is removed as a swarf as shown in Fig. 9.9c.
Related termsEdit


swarf (third-person singular simple present swarfs, present participle swarfing, simple past and past participle swarfed)

  1. (transitive) To grind down.
    • 1958, Machinery, volume 65, page 160:
      A machine for swarfing the joining edges of parts or sub-assemblies having compound angle surfaces is announced by the Rockford Machine Tool Co., Rockford, 111.
    • 1959, Aircraft and Missiles Manufacturing, volume 2, page 114:
      Hydraulic mill is used for swarfing the joining edges of parts or sub-assemblies with compound surfaces.
    • 1976, Bulletin of the Japan Society of Precision Engineering:
      This weakend[sic] layer is swarfed off by rubbing of chip, consequently, severe cratering is manifested on tool face after total cutting time Tc. However, the whole interacted layer is not swarfed off, and the influence of thin residual layer is ignored at the theoretical analysis.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English swarven, swerven (to go; turn aside; deviate; stagger; swerve; be unsteady), from Old English sweorfan (to wipe; polish; rub; scour; file), from Proto-Germanic *swerbaną (to wipe; rub off; mop), akin to Middle Dutch swerven ("to rove; stray"; > Dutch zwerven (to roam)), Low German swarven (to rove; stray; riot), Old Norse svarfa (to sweep; be upset; be agitated), Norwegian sverva (to whirl), Norwegian svarva (to agitate). See swerve.


swarf (third-person singular simple present swarfs, present participle swarfing, simple past and past participle swarfed)

  1. (Scotland, obsolete, intransitive) To grow languid; to faint.
    • 1821, Sir Walter Scott, Kenilworth:
      Moreover, the evil reputation of the master, and his strange and doubtful end, or at least sudden disappearance, prevented any, excepting the most desperate of men, to seek any advice or opinion from the servant; wherefore, the poor vermin was likely at first to swarf for very hunger.
    • 1876, John Wilson, The Comedy of the Noctes Ambrosianae:
      But afore her volumes fell into my hauns, my soul had been frichtened by a' kinds of traditionary terrors, and mony hunder times hae I maist swarfed wi' fear in lonesome spats in muirs and woods, at midnicht, when no a leevin thing was movin but mysel and the great moon.



  1. (obsolete) A swoon or faint.
    • 1795, John Adamson, The Loss and Recovery of Elect Sinners[1]:
      And when they had so continued feasting for a short time, they had been so served before, and the food was so rare and excellent, that they fell into a swarf, and cried out, []


  1. ^ swarf” in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online.