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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English swolowen, swolwen, swolȝen, swelwen, swelȝen, from Old English swelgan ‎(to swallow, incorporate, absorb, imbibe, devour), from Proto-Germanic *swelganą ‎(to swallow, revel, devour), from Proto-Indo-European *swelk- ‎(to gulp). Cognate with Dutch zwelgen ‎(to revel, carouse, guzzle), German schwelgen ‎(to delight, indulge), Swedish svälja ‎(to swallow, gulp), Icelandic svelgja ‎(to swallow), Old English swillan, swilian ‎(to swill, wash out, gargle). See also swill.

The noun is from late Old English swelg ‎(gulf, chasm), from the verb.

Alternative forms[edit]


swallow ‎(third-person singular simple present swallows, present participle swallowing, simple past and past participle swallowed)

  1. (transitive) To cause (food, drink etc.) to pass from the mouth into the stomach; to take into the stomach through the throat. [from 11th c.]
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 4:
      What the liquor was I do not know, but it was not so strong but that I could swallow it in great gulps and found it less burning than my burning throat.
    • 2011, Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, 21 Apr 2011:
      Clothes are to be worn and food is to be swallowed: they remain trapped in the physical world.
  2. (transitive) To take (something) in so that it disappears; to consume, absorb. [from 13th c.]
    • John Locke
      The necessary provision of the life swallows the greatest part of their time.
    • 2010, "What are the wild waves saying", The Economist, 28 Oct 2010:
      His body, like so many others swallowed by the ocean’s hungry maw, was never found.
  3. (intransitive) To take food down into the stomach; to make the muscular contractions of the oesophagus to achieve this, often taken as a sign of nervousness or strong emotion. [from 18th c.]
    My throat was so sore that I was unable to swallow.
    • 1979, VC Andrews, Flowers in the Attic:
      She swallowed nervously then, appearing near sick with what she had to say.
  4. (transitive) To accept easily or without questions; to believe, accept. [from 16th c.]
    • Sir Thomas Browne
      Though that story [] be not so readily swallowed.
    • 2011, Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, 22 Apr 2011:
      Americans swallowed his tale because they wanted to.
  5. To engross; to appropriate; usually with up.
    • Alexander Pope
      Homer excels [] in this, that he swallowed up the honour of those who succeeded him.
  6. To retract; to recant.
    to swallow one's opinions
    • Shakespeare
      swallowed his vows whole
  7. To put up with; to bear patiently or without retaliation.
    to swallow an affront or insult
Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]


swallow ‎(plural swallows)

  1. (archaic) A deep chasm or abyss in the earth.
  2. The amount swallowed in one gulp; the act of swallowing.
    He took the aspirin with a single swallow of water.

Etymology 2[edit]

Wikipedia has an article on:


A red-rumped swallow

Old English swealwe, from Proto-Germanic *swalwǭ. Cognate with Danish svale, Dutch zwaluw, German Schwalbe, Swedish svala.


swallow ‎(plural swallows)

  1. A small, migratory bird of the Hirundinidae family with long, pointed, moon-shaped wings and a forked tail which feeds on the wing by catching insects.
  2. (nautical) The aperture in a block through which the rope reeves.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Ham. Nav. Encyc to this entry?)
  • (bird of Hirundinidae): martin
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
  • (bird of Hirundinidae): martlet (type of feetless bird in heraldry)