From Middle English swath, swathe, from Old English swæþ, swaþu (“track; trace; footstep; mark; vestige; scar”), from Proto-Germanic *swaþō (“a wind-swept place; open field; borderland; terrain”). Cognate with Dutch zwade, zwad (“swath; windrow”), German Schwade (“swath; windrow”), Icelandic svæði (“area; zone; sector; region”).
Attested in English since 888 in its obsolete meaning of track or trace, since 1475 in its more modern usage. Cognate with German Schwaden (“row of mown grass or grain”).
No definite cognates outside Germanic languages.
- See F. Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch (De Gruyter), entry Schwaden, and OED.
swath (plural swaths)
- The track cut out by a scythe in mowing.
- (often figuratively) A broad sweep or expanse, such as of land or of people.
- A large swath of the population is opposed to this government policy.
- Five days after Hurricane Katrina, large swaths of New Orleans are still submerged in water.