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Earlier swey (to fall, swoon), from Middle English sweyen, from Old Norse sveigja (to bend, bow), from Proto-Germanic *swaigijaną (compare Saterland Frisian swooie (to swing, wave, wobble), Dutch zwaaien, Dutch Low Saxon sweuen (to sway in the wind), from Proto-Indo-European *sweh₁- (compare Lithuanian svaĩgti (to become giddy or dizzy), the second element of Avestan 𐬞𐬀𐬌𐬭𐬌-𐬱𐬑𐬎𐬀𐬑𐬙𐬀(pairi-šxuaxta, to surround), Sanskrit स्वजते (svájate, he embraces, enfolds).

The noun derived from the verb.


  • enPR: swā, IPA(key): /sweɪ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪ


sway (countable and uncountable, plural sways)

  1. The act of swaying; a swaying motion; a swing or sweep of a weapon.
  2. A rocking or swinging motion.
    The old song caused a little sway in everyone in the room.
  3. Influence, weight, or authority that inclines to one side
    I doubt I'll hold much sway with someone so powerful.
    • 2021 April 28, Tara Siegel Bernard, “Trading Stock Tips on TikTok, Newbies Are Deeply Invested in Learning”, in The New York Times[1], ISSN 0362-4331:
      Though both Mr. Knight and Mr. Hennessey view themselves as traders first, the “finfluencer” culture has flourished with the surge in online interest, and they have considerable sway.
  4. Preponderance; turn or cast of balance.
  5. Rule; dominion; control; power.
    • 1610–1611, William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii]:
      Prospero: [] Confederates / (ſo drie he was for Sway) with King of Naples / To giue him Annuall tribute, doe him homage / Subiect his Coronet, to his Crowne and bend / The Dukedom yet vnbow'd (alas poore Millaine) / To moſt ignoble ſtooping.
    • 2019 June 8, Takahashi, Toru, “Prayuth's return as prime minister takes Thailand back to 1980s”, in Nikkei Asian Review[2], Nikkei Inc, retrieved 2019-06-09:
      Prayuth's return as prime minister takes Thailand back to 1980s. Military still holds sway in a democracy that has yet to mature.
  6. A switch or rod used by thatchers to bind their work.
  7. The maximum amplitude of a vehicle's lateral motion.



sway (third-person singular simple present sways, present participle swaying, simple past and past participle swayed)

  1. To move or swing from side to side; or backward and forward; to rock.
    sway to the music
    The trees swayed in the breeze.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, “Afterglow”, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326, page 168:
      Breezes blowing from beds of iris quickened her breath with their perfume; she saw the tufted lilacs sway in the wind, and the streamers of mauve-tinted wistaria swinging, all a-glisten with golden bees; she saw a crimson cardinal winging through the foliage, and amorous tanagers flashing like scarlet flames athwart the pines.
  2. To move or wield with the hand; to swing; to wield.
    to sway the sceptre
  3. To influence or direct by power, authority, persuasion, or by moral force; to rule; to govern; to guide. Compare persuade.
    Do you think you can sway their decision?
    • 1697, “(please specify the book number)”, in Virgil; John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 403869432:
      This was the race / To sway the world, and land and sea subdue.
    • 2017 July 23, Brandon Nowalk, “The great game begins with a bang on Game Of Thrones (newbies)”, in The Onion AV Club[3]:
      After all this time [] the woman who endured all that by focusing on her hit list can be swayed from her course by the prospect of her family and her home.
  4. To cause to incline or swing to one side, or backward and forward; to bias; to turn; to bend; warp.
    reeds swayed by the wind
    judgment swayed by passion
    • 1663, John Tillotson, The Wisdom of being Religious
      Let not temporal and little advantages sway you against a more durable interest.
  5. (nautical) To hoist (a mast or yard) into position.
    to sway up the yards
  6. To be drawn to one side by weight or influence; to lean; to incline.
    • a. 1627 (date written), Francis [Bacon], “Considerations Touching a VVarre vvith Spaine. []”, in William Rawley, editor, Certaine Miscellany VVorks of the Right Honourable Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount S. Alban. [], London: [] I. Hauiland for Humphrey Robinson, [], published 1629, OCLC 557721855, page 64:
      euen in these Personall Respects, the Ballance swayes on our part: []
  7. To have weight or influence.
  8. To bear sway; to rule; to govern.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also[edit]