1624 (first used by Capt. John Smith, in reference to Virginia), perhaps a dial. survival from an O.E. cognate of O.N. svoppr "sponge, fungus," from P.Gmc. *swampuz; but traditionally connected with M.E. sompe "morass, swamp," probably from M.Du. somp or M.L.G. sump "swamp." Related to O.N. svöppr "sponge." The verb sense of "overwhelm, sink (as if in a swamp)" is first recorded 1772; fig. sense is from 1818. Swamp Yankee "rural, rustic New Englander" is attested from 1941.