From Middle English swayn, swain, sweyn, swein, from Old English sweġen (attested also as personal name Swein, Sweġen), from Old Norse sveinn, from Proto-Germanic *swainaz (“relative, young man, servant”), from Proto-Indo-European *swé (“oneself; separate; apart”), thus properly one's own. Cognate with Danish svend (“hireling, young man”), Norwegian svein (“lad, young man, servant”) Icelandic sveinn (“boy, lad, servant”), Swedish sven (“swain, servant”), Low German Sween, dialectal German Schwein, Old English swān (“swineherd, lad”).
swain (plural swains)
- (obsolete) A young man or boy in service; a servant.
- (obsolete) A knight's servant; an attendant.
- (archaic) A country labourer; a countryman, a rustic.
- (poetic) A rural lover; a male sweetheart in a pastoral setting.
- a. 1722, Matthew Prior, “Chanson Francoise. Translated”, in H. Bunker Wright, Monroe K. Spears, editors, The Literary Works of Matthew Prior, volume I, Second edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, published 1971, page 687:
- Why thus from the Plain does my Shepherdess rove
Forsaking Her Swain and neglecting his love?
- 2016 Zack Woods (as Donald "Jared" Dunn), "Founder Friendly", Silicon Valley episode 19
- You're the belle of the ball, and these are all your swains, hoping for a glimpse of ankle.