Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
1807, "a driving stroke made with the arms in full swing," perhaps a dialectal variant of sweep (n.), or in part from obsolete swip "a stroke, blow" (c.1200), from Proto-Germanic *swip-, related to Old English swipu "a stick, whip." Other possible sources or influences are Middle English swope "to sweep with broad movements" (in reference to brooms, swords, etc.), from Old English swapan; obsolete swaip "stroke, blow;" or obsolete swape "oar, pole."
1825, from swipe (v.). The slang sense of "steal, pilfer" appeared 1885, American English; earliest use in prison jargon:
The blokes in the next cell, little Charley Ames and the Sheeney Kid, they was hot to try it, and swiped enough shoe-lining out of shop No. 5, where they worked, to make us all breeches to the stripes. ["Lippincott's Magazine," vol. 35, June 1885]Meaning "run a credit card" is 1990s. Related: Swiped; swiper; swiping.
A stroke or blow, esp a strong one • Most often in the phrase take a swipe at: Let somebody take a swipe at him (1807+)verb
[all senses perhaps fr alterations of sweep or swoop and the actions of sweeping or swooping up, or of hitting a sweeping blow; noun sense perhaps fr dialect preservation of Old English swippan, ''beat, scourge'']
Inferior liquor, esp of the homemade sort: the homemade bootleg mess made by the natives out of fruit and called ''swipe''
[1960s+; probably related to several late 1780s and early 1800s British senses of swipe, ''to gulp liquor quickly and deeply,'' of swipes, ''small beer,'' and of swipey, ''tipsy,'' all of which may be related to the British nautical swipes, ''rinsings of the beer barrel,'' and hence to a sibilation of wipe]