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Alteration of swarty, from swart +‎ -y, from Old English sweart (black).



swarthy (comparative swarthier, superlative swarthiest)

  1. Tawny, dusky, dark.
  2. Dark-skinned.
    • 1712, Joseph Addison, Cato: A tragedy, published 1750, page 44:
      Their swarthy Hosts wou'd darken all our Plains, / Doubling the native Horror of the War, / And making Death more grim.
  3. Darker-skinned than white, but lighter-skinned than tawny.
    • 1751, Benjamin Franklin, "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind"
      the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People
    • 2016 "Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career, Second Edition" page 11
      Such was the religion that a young, swarthy man of medium height took with him as he trudged off to the University of Erfurt in May 1501.
  4. (nonstandard) Evil, malicious.
  5. (nonstandard) Weathered, rough.
    • 2003, Peter Ocko, “Curious George”, in Dead Like Me, season 1, episode 3, Showtime, Vancouver: MGM, 28:10 from the start:
      Mason: "Okay, how do I look, really?"
      Betty: "…'Swarthy.'"
      Mason: "Well, is that good?"
      Betty: "Depends if you like 'swarthy.'"
      Mason: "Do you like 'swarthy'?"
      Betty: "Not particularly."




swarthy (plural swarthies)

  1. A swarthy person.
    • 1900, The Whole Prose Romances of François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, page 70
      Finally I saw all our Italian women and my mother, torn in pieces, cut up, massacred by the monsters who contended for them ; the captives, my companions, the Moors who had taken us, the soldiers, the sailors, the blacks, the whites, the swarthies, the mulattoes, and lastly, my captain himself, were all slain
    • 1962, The Skipper volume 22, page 21
      Then one of the swarthies popped a couple of shovels of coal into the small fo'c's'le stove — for it was cold that July night Down Under — and everyone began to talk.
    • 1980, The secret of Sam Marlow: The Further Adventures of the Man with Bogart's Face, page 12
      Hobby Lobby made a slight motion with his left hand and the swarthies froze in the desert.
    • 1997, The Chariton Review, Volume 23, Issue 1, page 71
      The swarthies just stood waiting for whatever was in the air. I wanted to get up and walk away. But I didn't even budge.
    • 2010, Sympathy for the Devil, page 366
      Real controversial stuff, sure, but you know what, he was actually in the dead center of polite opinion when it came to the Negroes and the swarthies and money-grubbing kikes and all those other lovely stereotypes.
    • 2014, Dead Men Don't Eat Lunch, page 52
      The swarthies didn't bother to threaten us this time; instead, they mocked us with catcalls and whistles, as we squeezed past them in abject humiliation.
    • 2015, Everything is Happening: Journey into a Painting, page 24
      A school friend of mine, Gavin, one of the swarthies, organised one May afternoon a tea party at his parents' house in Cheyne Walk.