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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English sweren, swerien, from Old English swerian ‎(to swear, take an oath of office), from Proto-Germanic *swarjaną ‎(to speak, swear), from Proto-Indo-European *swer- ‎(to speak, talk). 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). Also cognate to Albanian var ‎(to hang, consider, to depend from) through Proto-Indo-European.


swear ‎(third-person singular simple present swears, present participle swearing, simple past swore, past participle sworn)

  1. (intransitive, transitive) To take an oath.
    • 1920, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Avery Hopwood, The Bat, chapterI:
      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.
  2. (intransitive) To use offensive language.
Usage notes[edit]
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 Help:How to check translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

From the above verb, or from Middle English sware, from Old English swaru, from Proto-Germanic *swarō.


swear ‎(plural swears)

  1. A swearword.

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English 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-Germanic *swēraz ‎(heavy), from Proto-Indo-European *swēr- ‎(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).

Alternative forms[edit]


swear ‎(comparative swearer or more swear, superlative swearest or most swear)

  1. (Britain dialectal) Heavy.
  2. (Britain dialectal) Top-heavy; too high.
  3. (Britain dialectal) Dull; heavy; lazy; slow; reluctant; unwilling.
  4. (Britain dialectal) Niggardly.
  5. (Britain dialectal) A lazy time; a short rest during working hours (especially field labour); a siesta.
Derived terms[edit]


swear ‎(third-person singular simple present swears, present participle swearing, simple past and past participle sweared)

  1. (Britain dialectal) To be lazy; rest for a short while during working hours.