cut a wide swath

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cut a wide swath (third-person singular simple present cuts a wide swath, present participle cutting a wide swath, simple past and past participle cut a wide swath)

  1. (chiefly US) To clear a broad track through a grassland, woodland, geographical region, or other area, either by natural means or by human action.
    • 1876, William Swinton, A Condensed School History of the United States, Ivison, Blakeman, and Taylor (New York), p. 277:
      Sherman started from Atlanta in the middle of November. He cut a wide swath of desolation through the South.
    • 1914, Edgar Rice Burroughs, chapter 6, in At the Earth's Core:
      Swinging his bloody horns from side to side the beast cut a wide swath before him.
    • 2004, "8 bodies pulled from twister-hit Illinois tavern," msnbc, 21 Apr.:
      The twister cut a wide swath of destruction in Utica, a town of 2,000 people about 90 miles southwest of Chicago.
  2. (chiefly US, figuratively, idiomatic) To behave in an expansive, flagrantly showy, or pushy manner, especially in public venues; to exert sweeping influence.
    • 1899, Delight Sweetser Prentiss, One Way Round the World, 2nd ed., Bowen-Merrill, p. 124:
      Girls who like to cut a wide swath ought to come out to China, for they will have enough flattery and attention to turn their heads.
    • 1924, "Method in Kindness," Time, 21 Jan., quoting the Daily News (Manhattan):
      During the two years that he [the Count] cut a wide swath in the city [Berlin] his name was constantly associated with that of some dancer, actress or other woman whose notoriety drew more attention than her talent.
    • 1998, Jeff Goldsmith, "Columbia/HCA: A Failure of Leadership," Health Affairs, vol. 17, no. 2, p. 27:
      The company certainly cut a wide swath in a conservative industry.
    • 2004, Gary Marx, "Venezuelans head to polls in president's recall election," San Diego Union Tribune, 15 Aug.:
      With his signature red beret and class-based rhetoric, president Hugo Chavez has cut a wide swath through this oil-rich but impoverished nation.




  • "cut a wide swath" in the Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006.
  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989. See "swath."
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987-1996. See "cut a swath," under "swath."