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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English swerven, swarven, from Old English sweorfan (to file; rub; polish; scour; turn aside), from Proto-Germanic *swerbaną (to rub off; wipe; mop), from Proto-Indo-European *swerbʰ- (to turn; wipe; sweep). Cognate with West Frisian swerve (to wander; roam; swerve), Dutch zwerven (to wander; stray; roam), Low German swarven (to swerve; wander; riot), Swedish dialectal svärva (to wipe), Icelandic sverfa (to file).



swerve (third-person singular simple present swerves, present participle swerving, simple past and past participle swerved)

  1. (archaic) To stray; to wander; to rove.
  2. To go out of a straight line; to deflect.
  3. To wander from any line prescribed, or from a rule or duty; to depart from what is established by law, duty, custom, or the like; to deviate.
    • 1785, The Book of Common Prayer According to the Use in King's Chapel:
      I swerve not from thy commandments.
    • 1702–1704, Edward [Hyde, 1st] Earl of Clarendon, “(please specify |book=I to XVI)”, in The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, Begun in the Year 1641. [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed at the Theater, published 1707, →OCLC:
      They swerve from the strict letter of the law.
    • 1705 November 8 (Gregorian calendar), Francis Atterbury, “A Standing Revelation, the Best Means of Conviction. A Sermon Preach’d before Her Majesty, at St. James’s Chapel, on Sunday, October 28. 1705, being the Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude.”, in Fourteen Sermons Preach’d on Several Occasions. [], London: [] E. P. [Edmund Parker?] for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1708, →OCLC, page 334:
      [T]here are many Perſons, who, through the Heat of their Luſts and Paſſions, through the Contagion of Ill Example, or too deep an Immerſion in the Affairs of Life, ſwerve exceedingly from the Rules of their Holy Faith; []
  4. To bend; to incline; to give way.
  5. To climb or move upward by winding or turning.
    • c. 1692, John Dryden, Amaryllis:
      The tree was high; / Yet nimbly up from bough to bough I swerved.
  6. To turn aside or deviate to avoid impact.
  7. Of a projectile, to travel in a curved line
    • 2011 January 8, Chris Bevan, “Arsenal 1 - 1 Leeds”, in BBC[1]:
      Snodgrass also saw a free-kick swerve just wide before Arsenal, with Walcott and Fabregas by now off the bench, turned their vastly superior possession into chances in the closing moments
  8. To drive in the trajectory of another vehicle to stop it, to cut off.
    • 1869, Leo Tolstoy, War & Peace, Part 10, Chapter 39:
      The French invaders, like an infuriated animal that has in its onslaught received a mortal wound, felt that they were perishing, but could not stop, any more than the Russian army, weaker by one half, could help swerving.
  9. (transitive, slang) To go out of one's way to avoid; to snub.
    If I see that type o' muthafucka in the club I just swerve him.

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


swerve (plural swerves)

  1. A sudden movement out of a straight line, for example to avoid a collision.
    • 1990, American Motorcyclist, volume 44, number 7, page 11:
      The distinction between using a skill subconsciously and employing it in the full knowledge of what was happening made a dramatic difference. I could execute a swerve to avoid an obstacle in a fraction of the time it previously took.
  2. A deviation from duty or custom.
    • 1874, William Edwin Boardman, Faith-work, Or the Labours of Dr. Cullis, in Boston, page 56:
      [] indubitable evidence of a swerve from the principle of the work.

Derived terms[edit]



Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of swerven