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See also: Swim and SWIM


woman swimming
Video of men swimming

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English swimmen, from Old English swimman (to swim, float) (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, past participle geswummen), from Proto-Germanic *swimmaną (to swoon, lose consciousness, swim), from Proto-Indo-European *swem(bʰ)- (to be unsteady, move, swim). Cognate with Scots sweem, soom (to swim), Saterland Frisian swimme (to swim), West Frisian swimme (to swim, float), Dutch zwemmen (to swim), German schwimmen (to swim), Norwegian Bokmål and Danish svømme (to swim), Swedish simma (to swim), Norwegian Nynorsk symja (to swim).



swim (third-person singular simple present swims, present participle swimming, simple past swam or (archaic) swum, past participle swum)

  1. (intransitive, archaic) To float.
    sink or swim
  2. (intransitive) To move through the water, without touching the bottom; to propel oneself in water by natural means.
    • 1720, Daniel Defoe, Captain Singleton, London: J. Brotherton, p. 87,[3]
      We were now all upon a Level, as to our travelling; being unshipp’d, for our Bark would swim no farther, and she was too heavy to carry on our Backs []
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[4]:
      He turned back to the scene before him and the enormous new block of council dwellings. The design was some way after Corbusier but the block was built up on plinths and resembled an Atlantic liner swimming diagonally across the site.
  3. (intransitive) To become immersed in, or as if in, or flooded with, or as if with, a liquid
    swimming in self-pity.
    a bare few bits of meat swimming in watery sauce.
  4. (transitive) To traverse (a specific body of water, or a specific distance) by swimming; or, to utilize a specific swimming stroke; or, to compete in a specific swimming event.
    For exercise, we like to swim laps around the pool.
    I want to swim the 200-yard breaststroke in the finals.
    • Dryden
      Sometimes he thought to swim the stormy main.
  5. (transitive, uncommon) To cause to swim.
    to swim a horse across a river
    Half of the guinea pigs were swum daily.
  6. (intransitive) To be overflowed or drenched.
    • Psalm VI:6 (KJV)
      I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
    • Thomson
      Sudden the ditches swell, the meadows swim.
  7. (transitive) To immerse in water to make the lighter parts float.
    to swim wheat in order to select seed
  8. (transitive, historical) To test (a suspected witch) by throwing into a river; those who floated rather than sinking were deemed to be witches.
  9. (transitive) To undergo a giddy sensation.
    My head was swimming after drinking two bottles of cheap wine.
Usage notes[edit]
  • In Late Middle English and Early Modern English, the present participle form swimmand still sometimes occurred in Midlands and Northern dialects, for exampleː
    • The water to nourish the fish swimmand. (The Towneley plays)
    • Their young child Troiane, as swift as dolphin fish, swimmand away. (1513, Gavin Douglas, Virgil's Aeneid)
Derived terms[edit]


swim (plural swims)

  1. An act or instance of swimming.
    I'm going for a swim.
  2. The sound, or air bladder, of a fish.
  3. (Britain) A part of a stream much frequented by fish.
  4. A dance move of the 1960s in which the arms are moved in a freestyle swimming manner.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Abbreviation of someone who isn't me.


swim (plural not attested)

  1. (Internet slang, text messaging) Abbreviation of someone who isn't me. used as a way to avoid self-designation or self-incrimination, especially in online drug forums

See also[edit]


  • swim at OneLook Dictionary Search