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From Old English swāpan, from Proto-Germanic *swaipaną. Cognate with Early Mod. West Frisian swiepe ‎(whip, cleanse, sweep), from Old Frisian swēpa, suepa ‎(sweep). See also swoop.



sweep ‎(third-person singular simple present sweeps, present participle sweeping, simple past and past participle swept)

  1. (transitive) To clean (a surface) by means of a stroking motion of a broom or brush.
    to sweep a floor, the street, or a chimney
    • Bible, Isaiah xiv. 23
      I will sweep it with the besom of destruction.
  2. (intransitive) To move through an (horizontal) arc or similar long stroke.
    The wind sweeps across the plain.
    The offended countess swept out of the ballroom.
    • 2005, Lesley Brown (translator), Sophist by Plato, 236d:
      [H]as the course of the argument so accustomed you to agreeing that you were swept by it into a ready assent?
  3. (transitive) To search (a place) methodically.
  4. (intransitive, figuratively) To travel quickly.
    • 2011 February 1, Phil McNulty, “Arsenal 2-1 Everton”, BBC:
      Everton took that disputed lead in a moment that caused anger to sweep around the Emirates.
  5. (cricket) To play a sweep shot.
  6. (curling) To brush the ice in front of a moving stone, causing it to travel farther and to curl less.
  7. (transitive, ergative) To move something in a particular motion, as a broom.
  8. (sports, transitive) To win (a series) without drawing or losing any of the games in that series.
  9. (sports, transitive) To defeat (a team) in a series without drawing or losing any of the games in that series.
  10. (transitive) To remove something abruptly and thoroughly.
    She swept the peelings off the table onto the floor.
    The wind sweeps the snow from the hills.
    The flooded river swept away the wooden dam.
    • 2013 June 7, Ed Pilkington, “‘Killer robots’ should be banned in advance, UN told”, The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 6: 
      In his submission to the UN, [Christof] Heyns points to the experience of drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles were intended initially only for surveillance, and their use for offensive purposes was prohibited, yet once strategists realised their perceived advantages as a means of carrying out targeted killings, all objections were swept out of the way.
  11. To brush against or over; to rub lightly along.
    Their long descending train, / With rubies edged and sapphires, swept the plain.
    • 1977, Agatha Christie, An Autobiography, Part II, chapter4:
      Mind you, clothes were clothes in those days. […]  Frills, ruffles, flounces, lace, complicated seams and gores: not only did they sweep the ground and have to be held up in one hand elegantly as you walked along, but they had little capes or coats or feather boas.
  12. To carry with a long, swinging, or dragging motion; hence, to carry in a stately or proud fashion.
  13. To strike with a long stroke.
    • Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
      Wake into voice each silent string, / And sweep the sounding lyre.
  14. (nautical) To draw or drag something over.
    to sweep the bottom of a river with a net
  15. To pass over, or traverse, with the eye or with an instrument of observation.
    to sweep the heavens with a telescope

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.


sweep ‎(plural sweeps)

  1. The person who steers a dragon boat.
  2. A person who stands at the stern of a surf boat, steering with a steering oar and commanding the crew.
  3. A chimney sweep.
  4. A search (typically for bugs [electronic listening devices]).
  5. (cricket) A batsman's shot, played from a kneeling position with a swinging horizontal bat.
    Bradman attempted a sweep, but in fact top edged the ball to the wicket keeper
  6. A lottery, usually on the results of a sporting event, where players win if their randomly chosen team wins.
    Jim will win fifty dollars in the office sweep if Japan wins the World Cup.
  7. A flow of water parallel to shore caused by wave action at an ocean beach or at a point or headland.
  8. A single action of sweeping.
    Give the front steps a quick sweep to get rid of those fallen leaves.
  9. (martial arts) A throw or takedown that primarily uses the legs to attack an opponent's legs.
  10. Violent and general destruction.
    the sweep of an epidemic disease
  11. (metalworking) A movable templet for making moulds, in loam moulding.
  12. (card games) In the game casino, the act of capturing all face-up cards from the table.
  13. The compass of any turning body or of any motion.
    the sweep of a door; the sweep of the eye
  14. Direction or departure of a curve, a road, an arch, etc. away from a rectilinear line.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      the road which makes a small sweep
  15. A large oar used in small vessels, partly to propel them and partly to steer them.
  16. (refining, obsolete) The almond furnace.
  17. A long pole, or piece of timber, moved on a horizontal fulcrum fixed to a tall post and used to raise and lower a bucket in a well for drawing water.
  18. (in the plural) The sweepings of workshops where precious metals are worked, containing filings, etc.

Derived terms[edit]