- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /swɛə/
- (General American) IPA(key): /swɛɚ/
Audio (US) (file)
- Rhymes: -ɛə(ɹ)
From Middle English sweren, swerien, from Old English swerian (“to swear, take an oath of office”), from Proto-West Germanic *swarjan, from Proto-Germanic *swarjaną (“to speak, swear”), from Proto-Indo-European *swer- (“to swear”).
Cognate with West Frisian swarre (“to swear”), Saterland Frisian swera (“to swear”), Dutch zweren (“to swear, vow”), Low German swören (“to swear”), sweren, German schwören (“to swear”), Danish sværge, Swedish svära (“to swear”), Icelandic sverja (“to swear”), Russian свара (svara, “quarrel”). Also cognate to Albanian var (“to hang, consider, to depend from”) through Proto-Indo-European.
The original sense in all Germanic languages is “to take an oath”. The sense “to use bad language” developed in Middle English and is based on the Christian prohibition against swearing in general (cf. Matthew 5:33-37) and invoking God’s name in particular (i.e. frequent swearing was considered similar to the use of obscene words).
- (transitive, intransitive) To take an oath, to promise intensely, solemnly, and/or with legally binding effect.
- (transitive) To take an oath that an assertion is true.
- (transitive) To promise intensely that something is true; to strongly assert.
- I swear I don't know what you're talking about.
- My little brother is such a pest, I swear.
- 1920, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Avery Hopwood, chapter I, in The Bat: A Novel from the Play (Dell Book; 241), New York, N.Y.: Dell Publishing Company, →OCLC, page 01:
- The Bat—they called him the Bat. […]. He'd never been in stir, the bulls had never mugged him, he didn't run with a mob, he played a lone hand, and fenced his stuff so that even the fence couldn't swear he knew his face.
- (transitive) To administer an oath to (a person).
- Let the witness be sworn.
- (transitive, intransitive) To use offensive, profane, or obscene language.
- 1956, Anthony Burgess, Time for a Tiger (The Malayan Trilogy), published 1972, page 38:
- An Australian was once appointed on contract, but he swore too much.
- In sense 1, this is a catenative verb that takes the to infinitive. See Appendix:English catenative verbs
- could have sworn
- pinky swear
- swear at
- swear blind
- swear by
- swear down
- swear in
- swear like a cutter
- swear like a pagan
- swear like a sailor
- swear like a trooper
- swear off
- swear off
- swear on
- swear on a stack
- swear on a stack of Bibles
- swear out
- swear the peace
- swear to God
- swear upon
- swear word
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
swear (plural swears)
From Middle English swere, swer, swar, from Old English swǣr, swār (“heavy, heavy as a burden, of great weight, oppressive, grievous, painful, unpleasant, sad, feeling or expressing grief, grave, slow, dull, sluggish, slothful, indolent, inactive from weakness, enfeebled, weak”), from Proto-West Germanic *swār, from Proto-Germanic *swēraz (“heavy”), from Proto-Indo-European *swer- (“heavy”).
Cognate with West Frisian swier (“heavy”), Dutch zwaar (“heavy, hard, difficult”), German schwer (“heavy, hard, difficult”), Swedish svår (“heavy, hard, severe”), Latin sērius (“earnest, grave, solemn, serious”) and Albanian varrë (“wound, plague”).
- (Northern England, Scotland) Heavy.
- (Northern England, Scotland) Top-heavy; too high.
- Synonym: overbalanced
- (Northern England, Scotland) Dull; lazy; slow.
- (Northern England, Scotland) Reluctant; unwilling.
- (Northern England, Scotland) Niggardly.
- 1714, Robert Smith, Poems of Controversy Betwixt Episcopacy and Presbytery, 2nd edition, Edinburgh: R. Syme & Son, published 1853, page 61:
- For if my Pen shall turn as Sweir's their Purse / I fear this is the last I'll write in Verse
swear (plural swears)
- (Northern England, Scotland) A lazy time; a short rest during working hours (especially field labour); a siesta.
- (Northern England, Scotland) To be lazy; rest for a short while during working hours.
- “swear”, in OneLook Dictionary Search.
- Wright, Joseph (1904) The English Dialect Dictionary, volume 5, Oxford: Oxford University Press, page 874
- the Swedes (of Sweden proper)