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[swim] /swɪm/
verb (used without object), swam, swum, swimming.
to move in water by movements of the limbs, fins, tail, etc.
to float on the surface of water or some other liquid.
to move, rest, or be suspended in air as if swimming in water.
to move, glide, or go smoothly over a surface.
to be immersed or steeped in or overflowing or flooded with a liquid:
eyes swimming with tears.
to be dizzy or giddy; seem to whirl:
My head began to swim.
verb (used with object), swam, swum, swimming.
to move along in or cross (a body of water) by swimming:
to swim a lake.
to perform (a particular stroke) in swimming:
to swim a sidestroke.
to cause to swim or float, as on a stream.
to furnish with sufficient water to swim or float.
an act, instance, or period of swimming.
a motion as of swimming; a smooth, gliding movement.
in the swim, alert to or actively engaged in events; in the thick of things:
Despite her age, she is still in the swim.
Origin of swim
before 900; Middle English swimmen, Old English swimman; cognate with Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen, Old Norse svimma
Related forms
swimmable, adjective
swimmer, noun
nonswimmer, noun
outswim, verb, outswam, outswum, outswimming. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for swim
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Sim could not swim, and he began to flop about in the wildest and most unreasonable manner.

    Down The River Oliver Optic
  • He was not fair to Vavasor; he never asked if he could swim.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • Another half-hour, and—unless help arrived—every passenger must swim for it.

  • But indeed Vavasor could swim, well enough, only he did not see the necessity for it.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • But he was tired after his swim, and his wool was heavy with water.

    Bobby of Cloverfield Farm Helen Fuller Orton
British Dictionary definitions for swim


verb swims, swimming, swam, swum
(intransitive) to move along in water, etc, by means of movements of the body or parts of the body, esp the arms and legs, or (in the case of fish) tail and fins
(transitive) to cover (a distance or stretch of water) in this way
(transitive) to compete in (a race) in this way
(intransitive) to be supported by and on a liquid; float
(transitive) to use (a particular stroke) in swimming
(intransitive) to move smoothly, usually through air or over a surface
(intransitive) to reel or seem to reel: my head swam, the room swam around me
(intransitive; often foll by in or with) to be covered or flooded with water or other liquid
(intransitive) often foll by in. to be liberally supplied (with): he's swimming in money
(transitive) to cause to float or swim
(transitive) to provide (something) with water deep enough to float in
swim against the tide, swim against the stream, to resist prevailing opinion
swim with the tide, swim with the stream, to conform to prevailing opinion
the act, an instance, or period of swimming
any graceful gliding motion
a condition of dizziness; swoon
a pool in a river good for fishing
(informal) in the swim, fashionable or active in social or political activities
Derived Forms
swimmable, adjective
swimmer, noun
swimming, noun, adjective
Word Origin
Old English swimman; related to Old Norse svima, German schwimmen, Gothic swumsl pond, Norwegian svamla to paddle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for swim

Old English swimman "to move in or on the water, float" (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, past participle swummen), from Proto-Germanic *swemjanan (cf. Old Saxon and Old High German swimman, Old Norse svimma, Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen), from PIE root *swem- "to be in motion."

The root is sometimes said to be restricted to Germanic, but possible cognates are Welsh chwyf "motion," Old Irish do-sennaim "I hunt," Lithuanian sundyti "to chase." For the usual Indo-European word, see natatorium. Sense of "reel or move unsteadily" first recorded 1670s; of the head or brain, from 1702. Figurative phrase sink or swim is attested from mid-15c., often with reference to ordeals of suspected witches.


1540s, "the clear part of any liquid" (above the sediment), from swim (v.). Meaning "part of a river or stream frequented by fish" (and hence fishermen) is from 1828, and is probably the source of the figurative meaning "the current of the latest affairs or events" (1869).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for swim



A swallow of liquor; pull, slug

[1621+; origin unknown]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for swim


solar wind interplanetary measurements
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with swim
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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