From Middle English swath, swathe, from Old English swæþ, swaþu (“track; trace; footstep; mark; vestige; scar”), from Proto-Germanic *swaþō, *swēþiją (“a wind-swept place; open field; borderland; terrain”). Cognate with Dutch zwade, zwad (“swath; windrow”), German Schwade (“swath; windrow”), Icelandic svæði (“area; zone; sector; region”).
Attested in English since 888 in its obsolete meaning of track or trace, since 1475 in its more modern usage. Cognate with German Schwaden (“row of mown grass or grain”).
No definite cognates outside Germanic languages.
- See F. Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch (De Gruyter), entry Schwaden, and OED.
swath (plural swaths)
- The track cut out by a scythe in mowing.
- (often figuratively) A broad sweep or expanse.
- Five days after Hurricane Katrina, large swaths of New Orleans, such as Canal Street seen here, are still submerged in water.
To be distinguished from main meanings of swathe, but that is also an alternative spelling for this word.