See also: Swim and SWIM


woman swimming
Video of men swimming

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English swimmen, from Old English swimman (to swim, float) (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, past participle geswummen), from Proto-West Germanic *swimman, from Proto-Germanic *swimmaną (to swoon, lose consciousness, swim), from Proto-Indo-European *swem(bʰ)- (to be unsteady, move, swim).



swim (third-person singular simple present swims, present participle swimming, simple past swam or (archaic) swum, past participle swum)

  1. (intransitive) To move through the water, without touching the bottom; to propel oneself in water by natural means.
    • 1720, Daniel Defoe, Captain Singleton, London: J. Brotherton, p. 87,[1]
      We were now all upon a Level, as to our travelling; being unshipp’d, for our Bark would swim no farther, and she was too heavy to carry on our Backs []
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[2]:
      He turned back to the scene before him and the enormous new block of council dwellings. The design was some way after Corbusier but the block was built up on plinths and resembled an Atlantic liner swimming diagonally across the site.
    • 2020 May 20, Paul Stephen, “NR beats floods to secure tracks to Drax”, in Rail, page 59:
      Meanwhile, NR faced an unexpected challenge when a night watchman spotted several Koi Carp swimming in floodwater close to the railway, after they had escaped from a nearby private residence. Wilson says the owner was eventually traced, and the fish were safely returned "after enjoying swimming around in a 3,000-acre lake".
  2. (intransitive) To become immersed in, or as if in, or flooded with, or as if with, a liquid
    swimming in self-pity
    a bare few bits of meat swimming in watery sauce
  3. (intransitive) To move around freely because of excess space.
    • 1777, The Poetical Preceptor; Or, a Collection of Select Pieces of Poetry, Etc
      A fam'd Sur-tout he wears, which once was blue, / And his foot swims in a capacious shoe.
  4. (transitive) To traverse (a specific body of water, or a specific distance) by swimming; or, to utilize a specific swimming stroke; or, to compete in a specific swimming event.
    For exercise, we like to swim laps around the pool.
    I want to swim the 200-yard breaststroke in the finals.
    • 1697, “The Tenth Book of the Æneis”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 403869432:
      Sometimes he thought to swim the stormy main.
  5. (transitive, uncommon) To cause to swim.
    to swim a horse across a river
    Half of the guinea pigs were swum daily.
  6. (intransitive, archaic) To float.
    sink or swim
  7. (intransitive) To be overflowed or drenched.
  8. (transitive) To immerse in water to make the lighter parts float.
    to swim wheat in order to select seed
  9. (transitive, historical) To test (a suspected witch) by throwing into a river; those who floated rather than sinking were deemed to be witches.
  10. (intransitive) To glide along with a waving motion.


Usage notesEdit
  • In Late Middle English and Early Modern English, the present participle form swimmand still sometimes occurred in Midlands and Northern dialects, for exampleː
    • The water to nourish the fish swimmand. (The Towneley plays)
    • Their young child Troiane, as swift as dolphin fish, swimmand away. (1513, Gavin Douglas, Virgil's Aeneid)
Derived termsEdit


swim (plural swims)

  1. An act or instance of swimming.
    I'm going for a swim.
  2. The sound, or air bladder, of a fish.
  3. (Britain) A part of a stream much frequented by fish.
  4. A dance move of the 1960s in which the arms are moved in a freestyle swimming manner.
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English swime, sweme, swaime (“a dizziness, swoon, trance”), from Old English swima (a swoon, swimming in the head).


swim (plural swims)

  1. A dizziness; swoon.


swim (third-person singular simple present swims, present participle swimming, simple past swam or (archaic) swum, past participle swum)

  1. (intransitive) To be dizzy or vertiginous; have a giddy sensation; to have, or appear to have, a whirling motion.
    My head was swimming after drinking two bottles of cheap wine.

Etymology 3Edit

Abbreviation of someone who isn't me.


swim (plural not attested)

  1. (Internet slang, text messaging) Abbreviation of someone who isn't me. used as a way to avoid self-designation or self-incrimination, especially in online drug forums

See alsoEdit


  • swim at OneLook Dictionary Search