From Middle English swopen, from Old English swāpan (to sweep). See also sweep.


  • enPR: swūp, IPA(key): /ˈswuːp/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːp


swoop (third-person singular simple present swoops, present participle swooping, simple past and past participle swooped)

  1. (intransitive) To fly or glide downwards suddenly; to plunge (in the air) or nosedive.
    The lone eagle swooped down into the lake, snatching its prey, a small fish.
  2. (intransitive) To move swiftly, as if with a sweeping movement, especially to attack something.
    The dog had enthusiastically swooped down on the bone.
    • 1922, Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
      There was a person called Nana who ruled the nursery. Sometimes she took no notice of the playthings lying about, and sometimes, for no reason whatever, she went swooping about like a great wind and hustled them away in cupboards.
  3. (transitive) To fall on at once and seize; to catch while on the wing.
    • Quoted in 1971, The Scriblerian (volumes 4-5, page 2)
      And his Eagles, which can with the same ease as a kite swoops a chicken, snatch up a strong built Chamber of wood 12 foot square, & well crampt & fortified with Iron, with all its furniture, & a man besides, & carry it to the Clouds?
  4. (transitive) To seize; to catch up; to take with a sweep.
  5. (intransitive) To pass with pomp; to sweep.
    • 1612, Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion song 1 p. 6[2]:
      Proude Tamer swoopes along, with such a lustie traine
      As fits so brave a flood two Countries that divides:
  6. (Britain, prison slang) To search the ground for discarded cigarette butts that can be made into new cigarettes.
    • 1989, Michael Bettsworth, Marking Time: A Prison Memoir (page 32)
      He was forever diving into dustbins or swooping on to the ground for cigarette ends.
    • 2015, Noel 'Razor' Smith, The Criminal Alphabet: An A-Z of Prison Slang
      Swooping is picking up discarded cigarette butts from the exercise yard and anywhere else they can be found.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


swoop (plural swoops)

  1. An instance, or the act of suddenly plunging downward.
    The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim. – Sun Tzu
    • 1922, Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
      One evening, when the Boy was going to bed, he couldn't find the china dog that always slept with him. Nana was in a hurry, and it was too much trouble to hunt for china dogs at bedtime, so she simply looked about her, and seeing that the toy cupboard door stood open, she made a swoop.
  2. A sudden act of seizing.
    • 1612, John Webster, The White Devil
      Fortune's a right whore. If she give ought, she deals it in small parcels, that she may take away all at one swoop.
  3. (music) A quick passage from one note to the next.
    • 2008, Russell Dean Vines, Composing Digital Music For Dummies (page 281)
      Originally, computers' attempts at making music were recognizable by their beeps and boops and weird swoops.


See alsoEdit