Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Scandinavian. Compare Swedish dialect svasska, Norwegian svakka, English dialect swack (a blow).


  • IPA(key): /swɒʃ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɒʃ


swash (countable and uncountable, plural swashes)

  1. The water that washes up on shore after an incoming wave has broken.
    • 1997, Paul Shepheard, The Cultivated Wilderness, Or, What is Landscape?, page 147:
      It is not the direct battering that breaks the dyke, but overtopping, when the flow of water sweeps away the inland face, so swash length is a vital thing to accommodate, and to do that you must make an estimate of the highest possible tides.
    • 2011, Orrin H. Pilkey, William J. Neal, James Andrew Graham Cooper, The World's Beaches: A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline, page 141:
      The first process occurs when swash mixes air and sand, trapping air bubbles just below the beach surface.
    • 2014, Orrin H. Pilkey, Tracy Monegan Rice, William J. Neal, How to Read a North Carolina Beach:
      The swash is made up of the remnants of a breaking wave.
  2. A narrow sound or channel of water lying within a sand bank, or between a sand bank and the shore, or a bar over which the sea washes.
    • 1924, Mary Mapes Dodge, St. Nicholas, page 1062:
      According to what you say about the shells, there ought to be a thousand flamingos feeding in this very swash at this instant.
    • 1928, United States. Bureau of Light-Houses, Atlantic Coast of the United States, page 366:
      Marks northwest junction of main and swash channels.
    • 1987, Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, SEPM Reprint Series, page 101:
      This is defined as a modified ridge or swash bar that develops into a berm on the swash bar's seaward margin (Coastal Research Group, 1969, p. 455).
    • 2010, Janette Thomas Greenwood, First Fruits of Freedom, page 31:
      At Cape Hatteras, numerous vessels ran aground, “driven from their anchors and grounded on the swash and bar.”
  3. A wet splashing sound.
    • 1906, Good Housekeeping - Volume 42, page 352:
      As a first warning the boiling liquid lifts the cover and washes over it with a noisy swash and clatter.
    • 1943, Ella M. Noller, Rendezvous With Victory, page 44:
      The sound of the furious "swash, swash,” as it struck, carried even to the depths of the holds where the engines churned madly to keep the prow in the teeth of the waves.
    • 1979, Sun & Moon - Issues 6-11, page 22:
      I'd wish with a swish, or I'd wash with a swash - and I'd dash (but not clash) with a dish ( but never squish your good things )
    • 2013, Bonnie Garmon, Jim Garmon, Indian River Country : Volume 1 1880-1889:
      I listen to the soothing swash, swash of the waves and feel renewed strength in mind
  4. A smooth stroke; a swish.
    • 1895, California. Legislature, Journals of the Legislature of the State of California, page 271:
      Dip in and out quickly and with a swash three or four times. This serves to wash off the dust that has settled while the fruit is on the trays.
    • 2005, Jimmy Weiskopf, Yajé: The New Purgatory : Encounters with Ayahuasca, page 91:
      Then he cut down a long forked stick, the anti-ophidian of the poor, and probing with the stick in one hand, began to clean the yuca grove with the machete in the other, displaying the lazy elegance of an athlete – swash, swash, swash – free and easy but looking carefully at each detail.
    • 2021, Carrie Chang, Sushi Girl:
      It had all been like a swash of pink cool-aid punch in her surprised face,some brigand of flailing emotions, in her golden pocket-book, where they could hear a fading swami-echo speaking out for animal rights, and damned yogic impulse.
    • 2021, Felicia Kate Solomon, Lucia’s Poltergeist:
      She does not know whose hands are whose, but feels the swash and jangle of a tickle shoot up her neck.
  5. A swishing noise.
    • 2003, Alfred Wohlpart, The Trail Home: Along the Pacific Crest, page 55:
      The swash of the whirling blades reminds me vaguely of the noise conifers make.
    • 2011, Barbara Allan Hite, Letters from Jane: The Adventures of an Abandoned Kitten, page 15:
      Nothing but more swash and click, until l heard... “Eurah!” Crunching! There it was: a definite crunching.
    • 2019, Veronica M. E. Zuill, The Most Unforgettable Moment: Our Biggest Mistake Ever:
      Swash! Swish! Swash! The wood saws chimed as they went back and forth cutting down tree branches.
  6. (typography) A long, protruding ornamental line or pen stroke found in some typefaces and styles of calligraphy.
    • 1955, Club of Printing Women of New York, Antique, Modern & Swash: A Brief History of Women in Printing, page 18:
      There is a group of decorative swash initials, too.
    • 1986, Walter Tracy, Letters of Credit: A View of Type Design, page 163:
      so swash versions of the capitals were produced as alternatives.
    • 1992, Allan Haley, Typographic Milestones, page 110:
      Tracy also wrote that the italic was too distinctive to combine well with the roman, and that the alternative swash characters made for the italic "prettify the text only at the expense of comforatable reading."
    • 2004, George Williams, “Beyond Glyphs, Advanced Typographic Features of Fonts”, in Apostolos Syropoulos, Karl Berry, Yannis Haralambous, editor, TeX, XML, and Digital Typography, page 258:
      GX provides a mechanism for determining if a glyph is at the start or end of a text line (so swash substitutions could be made dependent on this) while Opentype does not.
    • 2017, Joyce Carol Oates, Soul/Mate:
      The grim satisfied smile on the woman's pug face suggests that she is doing this primarily to take revenge upon the absent, so conspiciously absent husband: there is a happy violence in the very swash of her signature.
    • 2020, Lisa Quine, Vintage Hand Lettering:
      To differentiate between a swash and a flourish, note that swash is a typographical term that refers to the end of a letter that is extended in a curved flourish, and a flourish itself is just a decorative curl in general.
  7. A streak or patch.
    • 1972, John Boyd, The I. Q. Merchant, page 21:
      On impulse he took Sunset through Brentwood and saw Cape Jessamines flaring pink above green lawns and here and there a yellow swash of jonquils.
    • 1993, Jo-Ann Morgan, Hank and Chloe:
      Hank stared for a moment at the bloody swash across his hand.
    • 2013, Sportsman's Connection, Eastern Pennsylvania All-Outdoors Atlas & Field Guide, page 43:
      Additionally, males have an extra swash of red running parallel from the base of the bill to the eye.
    • 2014, Jill Jones, My Lady Caroline:
      Spring had painted the land with a swash of verdant splendor, and it was difficult for Jeremy to remain in a foul mood despite the fact he was about to be ousted from his search, and his bed, by Alison Cunningham.
    • 2017, Adam Thorpe, Missing Fay:
      To reach the blackberries, he has to cut a path with the sickle through a swash of six-foot flowering nettles that sting his exposed wrists now and again, sweating in the sun's blaze.
  8. (obsolete) Liquid filth; wash; hog mash.
    • 1842, William Tyndale, The parable of the Wycked Mammon, page 10:
      And it setteth the soul at liberty, and maketh her free to follow the will of God and doth to the soul even as health doth unto the body; after that a man is pined and wasted away with a long soaking disease, the legs cannot bear him, he cannot lift up his hands to help himself, his taste is corrupt, sugar is bitter in his mouth, his stomach abhorreth [meat.] longing after slibbersause and swash, at which a whole stomach is ready to cast his gorge.
  9. (obsolete) A blustering noise.
  10. (obsolete) swaggering behaviour.
    • 1886 September, “Insurance”, in The American Horticulturist: A National Journal of Horticulture, volume 2, number 1, page 27:
      Some of you are making a great swash in life and after awhile will die, leaving your families beggars, and will expect us ministers of the Gospel to come and lie about your excellencies; but we will not do it.
    • 1993, Robin Leanne Wiete, When Morning Comes, page 32:
      He silently cursed the recently arrived Jessup, who was full of more swash than sense .
    • 2020, Lawrence Booth, The Shorter Wisden 2020:
      Not short on self-assurance, Gulbadeen opened the batting (and bowled at the death) with more swash than buckle.
  11. (obsolete) A swaggering fellow; a swasher.
  12. (architecture) An oval figure, whose mouldings are oblique to the axis of the work.
    • 1683, Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises
      have the Upper Sholder of that Swash Sculped down straight, viz. to a Right Angle
    • 1856, Lectures on the Progress of Arts and Science, page 230:
      The lathe was, in process of time, adapted to the production of oval figures, twisted and swash-work, as it is called, and, lastly, of rose-engine work. The swash, or raking mouldings, were employed in the balusters of staircases and other ornaments at the period of the "Renaissance" in architecture, about the end of the sixteenth century, and, therefore, the swash-lathe assumes somewhat of the character of a manufacturing machine.
    • 2019, Samuel Smiles, Industrial Biography: Iron Workers and Tool Makers:
      The artisans of the Middle Ages were very skilful in the use of the lathe, and turned out much beautiful screen and stall work, still to be seen in our cathedrals, as well as twisted and swash-work for the balusters of staircases and other ornamental purposes.



swash (third-person singular simple present swashes, present participle swashing, simple past and past participle swashed)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To swagger; to act with boldness or bluster (toward).
    • 1910, Jerome Klapka Jerome, Robert Barr, Arthur Lawrence, The Idler: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine - Volume 37, page 1327:
      He swashed out of the room, and presently we heard his angry voice berating his bearer.
    • 2009, Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie: A Novel, page 310:
      He swashed about (cautioned though he was to maintain silence concerning his past theatrical relationships) in such a self-confident manner that he was like to convince every one of his identity by mere matter of circumstantial evidence.
    • 2011, Harry Turtledove, An Emperor for the Legion:
      The men he'd swashed were coming at him, with determination if no great skill.
    • 2016, Ronda Armitage, The Lighthouse Keeper: The Lighthouse Keeper's Breakfast:
      "We'll be splendid pirates!" cried Mrs Grinling as she swashed and buckled around the room.
    • 2019, Mark David Gerson, The MoonQuest:
      I turned my back on him and swashed forward.
    • 2021, Gabriele Dürbeck, Philip Hüpkes, Narratives of Scale in the Anthropocene:
      "In its nature," says Jacques Lacan just a few years after the physical-mathematical techniques had joined forces with cybernetics and then swashed back to France, “the door belongs to the symbolic order, [as] it opens up either on to the real or the imaginary, we don't know quite which [...] [it is] the symbol par excellence" (Lacan 1988, 302).
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To dash or flow noisily; to splash.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “Moby Dick’’, chapter 40”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC:
      How the sea rolls swashing ‘gainst the side! Stand by for reefing, hearties!
    • 1915, Emma Beatrice Burton, Beatrice Witherspoon, page 59:
      There was an inch or two of water on the floor in our room that continually swashed, swashed from side to side, with the rolling of the ship.
    • 2009, Callum Roberts, The Unnatural History of the Sea:
      Standing at the rail of his caravel on a sultry Caribbean evening as the water jogged and swashed the boat, he smelled the perfume of soil and flowers wafting on a land breeze from the island of Cuba.
    • 2014, M. M. Owen, A Sting In The Tale - An Anthology of Twist Endings:
      The rain was pelting and rattling upon the leathern top of the carriage, and the wheels swashed as they rolled through puddle and mud.
    • 2014, Sheldon Cashdan, The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales:
      They waved one sleeve, but only swashed wine all over the guests; they waved the other, but only scattered bones through the room.
    • 2015, Steven Blair Wheeler, Behind Enemy Lines: A Novel of the Battle of the Bulge:
      He swashed it down with coffee royale, feeling his spirits reviving.
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To swirl through liquid; to swish.
    • 1917, The Automobile - Volume 37, page 233:
      The parts are swashed in the solution until they are clean and are then rinsed in cold running water.
    • 1920, Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine - Volume 99:
      I followed one set to the laundrey, where for two hours the samples were swashed and soaked, and swashed again, with strong laundry soap.
    • 2008, Francisco Chicado, Mandible Museum, page 76:
      His gray and black hair on his head swashed in the dirty water around what used to be his face.
    • 2012, Sir Leonard, My Dual Fresh Juice and Miracle Weight Losing Plans:
      First, they should be taken into the mouth, swashed and swirled around in the mouth so as to mix them with your saliva in which the saliva enzymes break down the juice for a much easier consumption.
    • 2014, Ernest Haycox, Man in the Saddle:
      He swashed the dipper around the bucket, keeping his eyes down—and took a slow step sidewise until he cleared the well box and stood behind it.
    • 2019, Matthew Hughes, A God in Chains:
      His throat worked as he poured the drink down his throat, then he took another mouthful and swashed it around before spitting it out.
  4. (intransitive) To wade forcefully through liquid.
    • 1894, Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book:
      Kala Nag swashed out of the water, blew his trunk clear, and began another climb; but this time he was not alone, and he had not to make his path.
    • 1899, Thomas Carlyle, History of Fredrich the Second, called Frederick the Great, page 323:
      While Col-d'Argent sank collapsed upon the Bridge, and the horse charged over him, and again charged, and beat and were beaten three several times, Anhalt-Dessau, impatient of such fiddling hither and thither, swashed into the stream itself with his Prussian Foot; swashed through it, waist-deep or breast-deep, and might have settled the matter had not his cartridges got wetted.
    • 1927, Carleton Beals, Brimstone and Chili, page 137:
      We clambered over the giant ahuehuete like Lilliputians over the body of a Gulliver, and swashed through the slimy flood.
    • 2019, Ken Donaldson, Mouses Journey, page 112:
      The raccoon swashed and swished his way back out of the river's water to interrupt the mouse
    • 2021, Arthur Olney Friel, Tiger River:
      In his wake swashed the others, still covered from both banks.
  5. (transitive, intransitive) To swipe.
    • 1828, The night watch; or, Tales of the sea - Volume 2, page 97:
      ' [] ye ill-farren, useless bowdikite!' said she, as she swashed the dishclout about my lugs,
    • 2010, Dorothea Lasky, Black Life, page 10:
      It was a fire sword That I swashed about the world, O how I swashed The great fire sword that lit the sky
    • 2015, James Hannah, The A to Z of You and Me, page 191:
      Steady rhythms swash, swash, on my chest Yes, yes.
  6. (intransitive) To fall violently or noisily.
  7. To streak, to color in a swash.
    • 2003, Walter Schenck, Shiloh, Unveiled, page 660:
      As the valleys darkened, the caps of the hills were swashed in variant hues.
    • 2014, Jill Jones, A Scent of Magic:
      The glade where he stood was tropical in nature and should have been swashed in a hundred shades of green.
    • 2019, Nancy Corson Carter, A Green Bough: Poems For Renewal, page 6:
      Great silhouettes overhead swashed the blue satin sky with scimitar wings—Magnificent Frigatebirds!


See also[edit]


swash (comparative swasher, superlative swashest)

  1. bold; dramatic.
    • 1970, Vogue - Volume 155, page 40:
      Very swash in camelly cashmere belted over shirt-tunic and pants in a neat, tiny print of cinnamon–navy–wine–beige crêpe de Chine;
    • 1972, James L. Steffensen, Great Scenes from the World Theater - Volume 2:
      When Sir Noel Coward played King Magnus to the Orinthia of Miss Margaret Leighton, the stage was swash with beige draperies,
    • 1997, Tuesday Frase, Melissa Tyler, The Official Guide to Ultima Online, page 70:
      It seemed like a cool thing, very swash, very buckle.
    • 2010, David Storey, This Sporting Life, page 147:
      I'd only feel stupid. How could that alter anything? It's just like you: big, swash actions.
    • 2014, Edward Taylor, The Poems of Edward Taylor, page 60:
      Should Angel-Feathers plume my Cap, I should Be swash? but oh! my Heart grows Cold.
  2. (typography) Having pronounced swashes.
    • 1936, Acta arithmetica - Volume 58, page 217:
      The French compositor took the greek capitals for latin ones and sought out his swashest type to set the handwritten letters,
    • 1967, John Le F. Dumpleton, Teach Yourself Handwriting, page 45:
      The failing to avoid at all costs when using this type of capital is that of making them too swash.
    • 2001, Typography 21: The Annual of the Type Directors Club, page 285:
      A couple of the swashest Italic capitals have gone over the top