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[swiv-uh l] /ˈswɪv əl/
a fastening device that allows the thing fastened to turn around freely upon it, especially to turn in a full circle.
such a device consisting of two parts, each of which turns around independently, as a compound link of a chain, one part of which turns freely in the other by means of a headed pin or the like.
a pivoted support allowing a gun to turn around in a horizontal plane.
a device attached to a loom and used as a shuttle to weave extra threads in the production of small figures, especially dots.
verb (used with object), swiveled, swiveling or (especially British) swivelled, swivelling.
to turn or pivot on or as if on a swivel:
He swiveled his chair around.
to fasten by a swivel; furnish with a swivel.
verb (used without object), swiveled, swiveling or (especially British) swivelled, swivelling.
to turn on or if as on a swivel.
Origin of swivel
1275-1325; Middle English (noun), equivalent to swiv- (weak stem of Old English swīfan to revolve; cognate with Old Norse svīfa to turn) + -el instrumental suffix
Related forms
swivellike, adjective
unswivel, verb (used with object), unswiveled, unswiveling or (especially British) unswivelled, unswivelling. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for swivel


a coupling device which allows an attached object to turn freely
such a device made of two parts which turn independently, such as a compound link of a chain
  1. a pivot on which is mounted a gun that may be swung from side to side in a horizontal plane
  2. Also called swivel gun. the gun itself
verb -els, -elling, -elled (US) -els, -eling, -eled
to turn or swing on or as if on a pivot
(transitive) to provide with, secure by, or support with a swivel
Derived Forms
swivel-like, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old English swīfan to turn; see swift
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for swivel

c.1300, from frequentative form of stem of Old English verb swifan "to move in a course, sweep" (a class I strong verb), from Proto-Germanic *swipanan (cf. Old Frisian swiva "to be uncertain," Old Norse svifa "to rove, ramble, drift"), from PIE root *swei- "swing, bend, move in a sweeping manner." Middle English swive was the principal slang for "to have sexual intercourse with," a sense that developed c.1300. This probably explains why, though the root is verbal, the verb swivel is not attested in Modern English until 1794. Cf. Middle English phrase smal-swivinge men "men who copulate infrequently."


1794, from swivel (n.). Related: Swiveled; swiveling; swivelled; swivelling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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