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From dialectal swank (to strut, behave ostentatiously), perhaps from an unrecorded Old English root, derived from Proto-Germanic *swankijaną (to cause to sway, swing) or from Proto-Germanic *swankaz (lithe, bendsome, slender), related to the Scots swank and the Middle High German swanken, modern German schwanken (to sway).



swank (comparative swanker, superlative swankest)

  1. Fashionably elegant, posh.
    • 1939 January 13, Norrie Jackson, “With the Alumni”, in The Princeton Alumni Weekly, volume XXXIX, number 13, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, →ISSN, →OCLC, pages 307, columns 1–2:
      The fish house or shack is built without windows, covered with tar paper to keep out the light and wind, and set on the ice over about ten feet of water in a spot off shore where fish have been known to habitate habitually. [] A couple of boxes to sit on and a plank or mat for your feet and a small airtight stove, if you want swank comfort.
    • 1963, J P Donleavy, A Singular Man, published 1963 (USA), page 28:
      "You live in that swank apartment round the corner."
      "Hey you must be rich."
    • 1995 December 18, Alexandra Lange, “Now That’s Swanky: Eurotrash, Caviar, Shiny Mega-baubles, and Super-glitzy Weddings—the Gold-plated Set is Once Again Making New York Its Playpen”, in Kurt Andersen, editor, New York, volume 28, number 50, New York, N.Y.: K-III Magazine Corporation, →ISSN, page 30:
      You know it's swank when … It's very shiny / It's very tan / It's got Royale in its name
    • 1998, Robin W. Winks, “The Montgomery Block”, in Frederick Billings: A Life, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Calif., London: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 59:
      [T]he Montgomery Block was the commercial and social center of San Francisco. [] Above [the ground floor] were a law library, the three rooms of the Mercantile Library Association, and a swank billiard room that ran nearly the entire length of the second floor.
    • 2009, Alan Reed, Ben Ohmart, Yabba Dabba Doo!: The Alan Reed Story, page 64:
      Mr. Heinz belonged to a very swank club in Pittsburgh.
    • 2010, Maximus Tonelli, The Pilot and the Actress, page 77:
      She arrived at a very swank studio, where Mr. Feldman introduced himself as the director of auditions.
    • 2010, Shirley Butts Wilson, Light in the Darkest Hours:
      As we were enjoying this lovely meal, a very swank and sophisticated older woman came over to our table and excused herself, more so to Jerry than me.
    • 2011, Richelle Mead, Succubus Dreams:
      Warren, Emerald City's owner, had thrown a swank party at his house and invited the whole staff, along with about fifty others.


swank (countable and uncountable, plural swanks)

  1. A fashionably elegant person.
    • 2007, Frances McNeil, “Sophie”, in Sisters in Fortune, Sutton, Surrey: Severn House Publishers, →ISBN; republished as Frances Brody [pseudonym; Frances McNeil], Halfpenny Dreams, London: Piatkus, Little, Brown Book Group, 2016, →ISBN:
      Us Morans don't like swanks, and that girl was a swank. Stuck-up rich girl. She wore a practically new gabardine with the same paper Union Jack flag as me, only hers was tucked into her coat buttonhole, behind a gold cat pasted with jewels.
  2. Ostentation; bravado.
    • 1929, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, When the World Screamed[1]:
      'It is mere swank sending it to us,' said he. 'We have to be there whatever happens, as the hangman said to the murderer.'
    • 1925, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, chapter 1, in The Great Gatsby, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, published 1953, →ISBN, →OCLC, page 7:
      Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat.
    • 1952, C[live] S[taples] Lewis, chapter 2, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, London: Geoffrey Bles, →OCLC:
      Huge waves keep coming in over the front and I have seen the boat nearly go under any number of times. All the others pretend to take no notice of this, either from swank or because Harold says one of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to Facts.


swank (third-person singular simple present swanks, present participle swanking, simple past and past participle swanked)

  1. To swagger, to show off.
    Looks like she's going to swank in, flashing her diamonds, then swank out to another party.
    • 1953, Saul Bellow, chapter 5, in The Adventures of Augie March, New York: Viking Press, →OCLC:
      He was still an old galliard, with white Buffalo Bill vandyke, and he swanked around, still healthy of flesh, in white suits, looking things over with big sex-amused eyes.
    • 1982 November, James Wolcott, “Your Flick of Flicks: My Favorite Year Recalls the Comical Days of Early TV, when the Programs were so Good You Didn’t Want to Go to the Movies”, in Texas Monthly, volume 10, number 11, Austin, Tx.: Texas Monthly, Inc., →ISSN, page 219:
      [Peter] O'Toole does for this movie [My Favorite Year] what [Alan] Swann does for the cast and crew of Comedy Cavalcade: he swanks in whenever there's a lull in the action and with a dapper flare of his cuffs sets off smiles, sighs, palpitations.
    • 1985, Hla Pe, quoting Ù Tò (J[ohn William Alan] Okell, transl., Yamá Yagan (1933), volume I, page 5), “Burmese Poetry, 1450–1885: Its Scope and Nature”, in Burma: Literature, Historiography, Scholarship, Language, Life, and Buddhism, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, →ISBN, page 14:
      With their innuendos and condemnations, with their loud-mouthed gabble, what a frighteningly learned lot they are – not quite clever, and not quite skilled. But still, it's woman's nature to swank; they swank because they're women, so let them swank. We won't take offence.
    • 2007, Lucy Diamond, chapter 2, in Any Way You Want Me, London: Pan Books, →ISBN:
      He hung up my coat – my shabby, two-seasons-old Gap coat – and it looked like the scruffy kid in class next to the fawn cashmere number swanking on the neighbouring peg.

Related terms[edit]




swank (comparative mair swank, superlative maist swank)

  1. slender; pliant; agile; supple
    Synonym: swanking