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.

before 900; Middle English swimmen, Old English swimman; cognate with Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen, Old Norse svimma

swimmable, adjective
swimmer, noun
nonswimmer, noun
outswim, verb, outswam, outswum, outswimming.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
swim (swɪm)
vb (often foll by in) , swims, swimming, swam, swum
1.  (intr) 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
2.  (tr) to cover (a distance or stretch of water) in this way
3.  (tr) to compete in (a race) in this way
4.  (intr) to be supported by and on a liquid; float
5.  (tr) to use (a particular stroke) in swimming
6.  (intr) to move smoothly, usually through air or over a surface
7.  (intr) to reel or seem to reel: my head swam; the room swam around me
8.  (intr; often foll by in or with) to be covered or flooded with water or other liquid
9.  to be liberally supplied (with): he's swimming in money
10.  (tr) to cause to float or swim
11.  (tr) to provide (something) with water deep enough to float in
12.  swim against the tide, swim against the stream to resist prevailing opinion
13.  swim with the tide, swim with the stream to conform to prevailing opinion
14.  the act, an instance, or period of swimming
15.  any graceful gliding motion
16.  a condition of dizziness; swoon
17.  a pool in a river good for fishing
18.  informal in the swim fashionable or active in social or political activities
[Old English swimman; related to Old Norse svima, German schwimmen, Gothic swumsl pond, Norwegian svamla to paddle]
n, —adj

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

O.E. swimman "to move in or on the water, float" (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, pp. swummen), from P.Gmc. *swemjanan (cf. O.S., O.H.G. swimman, O.N. svimma, Du. zwemmen, Ger. schwimmen), from PIE base *swem- "to be in motion," sometimes said to be restricted to Gmc., but possible cognates
are Welsh chwyf "motion," O.Ir. do-sennaim "I hunt," Lith. sundyti "to chase." For the usual IE word, see natatorium. Sense of "reel or move unsteadily" first recorded 1678; of the head or brain, from 1702. Swimsuit first recorded 1934; swimming hole is from 1867; swimming pool is from 1899. Fig. phrase sink or swim is attested from c.1440, often with ref. to ordeals of suspected witches.

1547, "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 fig. meaning "the current of the latest affairs or events" (1869).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
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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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with swim, also see in the swim; sink or swim.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
The briny sweetness you taste in the water when you swim in the bay is in the
  oysters too.
Salamanders cling to the sides, bottom and drain gate of the reservoir and swim
  through the water.
In the following year, the second sister received permission to mount upward
  through the water and to swim whither she pleased.
In the forced swim test, you put the mouse or rat in a cylinder of water where
  it cannot touch the bottom.
Idioms & Phrases
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