c.1300, perhaps from a past tense form of M.E. swope "sweep," from O.E. swapan "to sweep" (transitive & intransitive); see swoop. The noun meaning "range, extent" is attested from 1679; in ref. to police or military actions, it is attested from 1837. Sense of "a winning of all the tricks in a card game" is from 1814 (see sweepstakes); extended to other sports by 1960. As a shortened form of chimney-sweeper, first attested 1812.