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From Middle English swilen (to wash; swirl; wash away), from Old English swillan, swilian (to wash; wash down; swill; gargle), from Proto-Germanic *swiljaną (to gulp, swallow), from Proto-Indo-European *swel- (to drink, gulp, swallow). Related to English swallow.


  • IPA(key): /swɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪl


swill (countable and uncountable, plural swills)

  1. (collective) A mixture of solid and liquid food scraps fed to pigs etc; especially kitchen waste for this purpose.
    Synonyms: hogwash, slops, pigswill
  2. (by extension) Any disgusting or distasteful liquid.
    I cannot believe anyone could drink this swill.
  3. (by extension, figuratively) Anything disgusting or worthless.
    This new TV show is a worthless load of swill.
    • 2017 March 27, “The Observer view on triggering article 50”, in The Observer[1]:
      They have helped foster a corrosive, mean-spirited, angry and divisive atmosphere that May and her lieutenants are too weak to challenge. Into this swill comes Leave financier-in-chief, Arron Banks, who last week announced he was setting up a “Patriotic Alliance” to attempt to unseat 100 Remain-supporting MPs.
  4. (informal) A large quantity of liquid drunk at one swallow.
    Synonym: swig
    He took a swill of his drink and tried to think of words.
  5. (informal) Inexpensive beer or alcohol.
    Coordinate terms: hooch, rotgut
  6. (Ultimate Frisbee) A badly-thrown pass.



swill (third-person singular simple present swills, present participle swilling, simple past and past participle swilled)

  1. (transitive) To drink (or, rarely, eat) greedily or to excess.
    • 1771, Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, Dublin: P. Wogan, 1793, Volume I, p. 130,[2]
      [] well-dressed people, of both sexes, [] devouring sliced beef, and swilling port, and punch, and cider []
    • 1820, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, Chapter 21,[3]
      “It is time lost,” muttered Cedric apart and impatiently, “to speak to him of aught else but that which concerns his appetite! [] he hath no pleasure save to fill, to swill, and to call for more. []
    • 1913, D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, chapter 8
      If you can give me no more than twenty-five shillings, I'm sure I'm not going to buy you pork-pie to stuff, after you've swilled a bellyful of beer.
    • 1944, Rutherford George Montgomery (as Al Avery), A Yankee Flier in Italy, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, Chapter 1, p. 9,[4]
      O’Malley answered calmly as he shoved half of the pie into his mouth.
      “Stop! Stop—swilling that pie!” the colonel roared.
  2. (transitive) To wash (something) by flooding with water.
    • c. 1598, William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III, Scene 1,[5]
      As fearfully as doth a galled rock
      O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
      Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
    • 1860, George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Book 3, Chapter 6,[6]
      Already, at three o’clock, Kezia, the good-hearted, bad-tempered housemaid, who regarded all people that came to the sale as her personal enemies, the dirt on whose feet was of a peculiarly vile quality, had begun to scrub and swill with an energy much assisted by a continual low muttering []
    • 1933, George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, London: Victor Gollancz, Chapter 27, p. 197,[7]
      When my turn came for the bath, I asked if I might swill out the tub, which was streaked with dirt, before using it.
  3. (transitive) To move (a liquid or liquid-filled vessel) in a circular motion.
    • 1958, Muriel Spark, Robinson, New York: New Directions, 2003, Chapter 6, p. 69,[8]
      Jimmie looked lovingly at the flask, smelt it, and then, placing it next his ear, swilled it round to hear the splash of liquor.
    • 2004, Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty, London: Picador, Chapter 14, p. 422,[9]
      He swilled round the whisky in his glass []
  4. (intransitive, of a liquid) To move around or over a surface.
    • 1906, Perceval Gibbon, “The Coward” in Vrouw Grobelaar and Her Leading Cases, New York: McClure, Phillips, pp. 222-223,[10]
      [] before them, between the high banks of the Vaal, they saw only a world of brown water, streaked with white froth, hurling down upon them. It rose above the foot-board and swilled to the level of the seat.
    • 1959, Ezra Pound, “Canto 96” in The Cantos of Ezra Pound, New York: New Directions, 1986, p. 654,[11]
      A flood of fads swilled over all Europe.
    • 2000, Hanif Kureishi, “Goodbye, Mother” in Granta 69, Spring 2000, p. 119,[12]
      The smell, the internal workings of every human being, the shit, blood, mucus swilling in a bag of flesh, made him mad. He felt he was wearing the glasses the stage hypnotist had given people, but instead of seeing them naked, he saw their inner physiology, their turbulence, their death.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To inebriate; to fill with drink.
    • 1634, John Milton, Comus, London: Humphrey Robinson, 1637, p. ,[13]
      [] I should be loath
      To meet the rudenesse, and swill’d insolence
      Of such late Wassailers;
    • 1858, “A Primary Election at Peter Cooper’s Funny Little Grocery-Groggery,” Stephen H. Branch’s Alligator, Volume I, No. 13, 17 July, 1858, p. 2,[14]
      Have I not kept open house for three days and nights, and swilled yourself and comrades with liquor for a week, and haven’t you all been drunk at my expense for several days?
  6. (transitive) To feed swill to (pigs).
    • 1921, Nephi Anderson, Dorian, Salt Lake City, Chapter 8, p. 84,[15]
      “Carlia, have you swilled the pigs?”