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See also: SWAG



Etymology 1

From Middle English *swaggen, swagen, swoggen, probably from Old Norse sveggja (to swing, sway). Compare dialectal Norwegian svaga (to sway, swing, stagger).


swag (third-person singular simple present swags, present participle swagging, simple past and past participle swagged)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To (cause to) sway.
    Synonyms: sway, lurch
    • 1790, William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The Argument, p. 1,[2]
      Hungry clouds swag on the deep
    • 2013, Odie Hawkins & Zola Salena-Hawkins, Kwanzaa for Conrad & the Survival Tango, →ISBN, page 104:
      Soap/soak the mop into the mop bucket, squeeze it out slightly, swag it back and forth across the piss stained concrete, mop it dry.
  2. (intransitive) To droop; to sag.
    • 1624, Henry Wotton, The Elements of Architecture, [], London: [] Iohn Bill, →OCLC:
      so laid, they are more apt in swagging down, to pierce with their points, then in the jacent Posture
    • 1530, John Palsgrave, L'esclarcissement de la langue francoyse:
      I swagge as a fatte persos belly swaggeth as he goth.
  3. (transitive) To decorate (something) with loops of draped fabric.
    • 2009 January 29, Cathy Horyn, “In Paris, a Nod to Old Masters”, in New York Times[3]:
      Dior wouldn’t be Dior without the swagged ball gown [] .
  4. (transitive) To install (a ceiling fan or light fixture) by means of a long cord running from the ceiling to an outlet, and suspended by hooks or similar.
    • 1991, Kalton C. Lahue; Cheryl Smith, Interior Lighting, page 19:
      Hooks come with screws for use in plaster or wood and toggles for use in wallboard. One hook should be sufficient to swag a lamp from a ceiling outlet.


swag (plural swags)

  1. (window coverings) A loop of draped fabric.
  2. A low point or depression in land; especially, a place where water collects.
    • 1902, D. G. Simmons, "The Influence of Contaminated Water in the Development of Diseases", The American Practitioner and News, 34: 182.
      Whenever the muddy water would accumulate in the swag the water from the well in question would become muddy [] After the water in the swag had all disappeared through the sink-hole the well water would again become clear.

Derived terms

Etymology 2

Clipping of swagger. A common pseudo-etymology is the derivation as acronym for “secretly we are gay”, or other unlikely phrases.[1]


swag (uncountable)

  1. (slang) Style; fashionable appearance or manner.
    • 2009, Mark Anthony Archer, Exile, page 119:
      Now this dude got swag, and he was pushing up on me but, it wasn't like we was kicking it or anything!
    • 2012, Jack Goldstein & Jimmy Russell, 10 Amazing Gangnam Style Tips, →ISBN:
      They've got those dumb Kanye sunglasses that are $3 a pair at any skanky old market, they've go the word SWAG airbrushed onto them; these kids are hanging around listening to crunk records, throwing around sayings like “Swag it out”, “Turn my swag on”, “Flip the swag switch and homie” and even “Get out your sweaty swag length and push it deep inside me”. Let me tell you something - if I ever see those kids out in Gangnam I'll be caving their sorry heads in with my swag bat, or I'll be making out with their swag girlfriend while they're too busy smoking crack behind a brick wall because that's how we do things in Gangnam, sucker.
Derived terms

Etymology 3

Swag (3) distributed at a meetup

From 18th c. British thieves' slang.


swag (countable and uncountable, plural swags)

  1. (obsolete, thieves' cant) A shop and its goods; any quantity of goods. [18th c.]
    Synonym: stock
  2. (uncountable, thieves' cant) Stolen goods; the booty of a burglar or thief; boodle. [18th c.]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:booty
    • 1819, James Hardy Vaux, Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux[4], volume 1, page 216:
      The swag, is a term used in speaking of any booty you have lately obtained, be it of what kind it may, except money; as where did you lumber the swag? that is, where did you deposit the stolen property? To carry the swag is to be the bearer of the stolen goods to a place of safety.
    • 1838, Boz [pseudonym; Charles Dickens], “Chapter 19”, in Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress. [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), London: Richard Bentley, [], →OCLC:
      “It′s all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?” asked the Jew. Sikes nodded.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[5]:
      ‘I understand that the district was considered a sort of sanctuary,’ the Chief was saying. ‘ […] They tell me there was a recognized swag market down here.’
    • 1971 November 22, Frank E. Emerson, “They Can Get It For You BETTER Than Wholesale”, in New York Magazine, page 38:
      He was on his way to call on other dealers to check out their swag and to see if he could trade away some of his leftover odds and ends.
  3. (uncountable, informal) Handouts, freebies, or giveaways, often distributed at conventions; merchandise. [late 20th c.]
    Synonyms: merch, schwag
    • 2011, Mark Henry, Battle of the Network Zombies:
      "Make sure to take some swag on your way out!" I called.
      He stooped a bit in mid-trot and snatched a small gold bag out of the basket at the door. The contents were mostly shit, a few drink tickets to the Well of Souls, VIP status at Convent, that sort of thing.
    • 2022 September 28, Kim Cook, “Why free swag at bars, hotels is so important to brands”, in Toronto Star[6]:
      You may hesitate before you pocket the swag, wondering if doing so is OK. Worry not: Hospitality industry folks say they’re delighted when people feel compelled to take one of these as a keepsake.
  4. (countable, Australia, dated) The possessions of a bushman or itinerant worker, tied up in a blanket and carried over the shoulder, sometimes attached to a stick.
    • 1896, Henry Lawson, “Out Back”, in In the Days When the World was Wide, and Other Verses, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, →OCLC, page 49:
      He tramped for years till the swag he bore seemed part of himself to him.
  5. (countable, Australia, by extension) A small single-person tent, usually foldable into an integral backpack.
  6. (countable, Australia, New Zealand) A large quantity (of something).
Derived terms


swag (third-person singular simple present swags, present participle swagging, simple past and past participle swagged)

  1. (Australia, transitive, intransitive) To travel on foot carrying a swag (possessions tied in a blanket). [From 1850s.]
    • 1880, James Coutts Crawford, Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia, page 259:
      He told me that times had been bad at Invercargill, and that he had started for fresh pastures, had worked his passage up as mate in a small craft from the south, and, arriving in Port Underwood, had swagged his calico tent over the hill, and was now living in it, pitched in the manuka scrub.
    • 1976, Pembroke Arts Club, The Anglo-Welsh Review, page 158:
      That such a man was swagging in the Victoria Bush at the age of fifty-one requires explanation.
    • 2006, Inga Clendinnen, The History Question: Who Owns the Past?: Quarterly Essay, number 23, page 3:
      The plot is straightforward. A swagman is settling down by a billabong after a hard day′s swagging.
    • 2011, Penelope Debelle, Red Silk: The Life of Elliott Johnston QC, page 21:
      Over the Christmas of 1939, just three months after Britain and Australia had declared war on Germany, they went swagging together for a week and slept out under the stars in the Adelaide Hills, talking, walking and reading.
  2. To transport stolen goods.
    • 1869, Frank Henderson, Six years in the prisons of England, page 225:
      Well, one night we were rather hard up and we wanted a good feed, so five or six of us set out, along with a great stout fellow, and we actually stole a whole sheep that was hanging at a butcher's door, and the big chap swagged it home.
Derived terms

Etymology 4


swag (plural swags)

  1. Alternative letter-case form of SWAG; a wild guess or ballpark estimate.
    I can take a swag at the answer, but it may not be right.


  1. ^ David P. Mikkelson (26 September 2012), “Did the Word ‘Swag’ Originate as an Acronym?”, in Snopes.com[1], archived from the original on 2021-11-28


Middle English



  1. Alternative form of swage

Old Frisian


From a word referring to the fence around a pasture; cf. Old Norse sveigr (supple branch, headkerchief), ultimately from a root meaning to bend or twist.


swāg f

  1. pasture


  • Dutch: Zwaag
  • Frisian: sweach, swaech

Further reading