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From earlier swip (with a short vowel), from Middle English swippen, swipen (to move violently), from Old English swipian, sweopian, swippan (to scourge, strike, beat, lash), from Proto-Germanic *swipōną, *swipjaną (to move), from Proto-Indo-European *sweyb- (to bend, turn, swerve, sway, swing, sweep). Cognate with German schwippen (to whip), Danish svippe (to smack; crack a whip), Icelandic svipa (to whip; move swiftly). Related to sweep, swoop.


  • IPA(key): /swaɪp/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪp


swipe (third-person singular simple present swipes, present participle swiping, simple past and past participle swiped)

  1. (intransitive) To grab or bat quickly.
    The cat swiped at the shoelace.
  2. (transitive) To strike with a strong blow in a sweeping motion.
  3. (transitive) To scan or register by sliding (a swipecard etc.) through a reader.
    He swiped his card at the door.
  4. (intransitive, computing) To interact with a touch screen by drawing one's finger rapidly across it.
    Swipe left to hide the toolbar.
  5. (transitive, computing) To draw (one's finger) rapidly across a touch screen.
  6. (transitive, informal) To steal or snatch.
    Hey! Who swiped my lunch?

Coordinate terms[edit]

  • (to interact with a touch screen): scroll



swipe (countable and uncountable, plural swipes)

  1. (countable) A quick grab, bat, or other motion with the hand or paw; a sweep.
  2. (countable) A strong blow given with a sweeping motion, as with a bat or club.
  3. (countable, graphical user interface) An act of interacting with a touch screen by drawing the finger rapidly across it.
    • 2020 April 18, Alyson Krueger, “Virtual Dating Is the New Normal. Will It Work?”, in The New Yorker[1]:
      Some New Yorkers are moving beyond the swipe to venture into flirtatious panel discussions and speed dating sessions.
  4. (countable) An act of passing a swipecard through a card reader.
    • 2020 March 13, Ronnie Koenig, “Parking So Prime, the Car Is Optional”, in The New Yorker[2]:
      Owning a car in New York City is seen as a liability by many, especially when a quick Uber ride or the swipe of a MetroCard can easily get you where you need to go.
  5. (countable, informal) A rough guess; an estimate or swag.
    Take a swipe at the answer, even if you're not sure.
  6. (countable, informal) An attack, insult or critical remark.
    The politician took a swipe at his opponents.
    • 2019 December 20, Abbey Marshall, “Sarah Sanders apologizes after mocking Biden’s stutter”, in Politico[3]:
      Biden‘s Twitter account then acknowledged the swipe, quote-tweeting Sanders shortly after the debate saying, “I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter. And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”
  7. (uncountable) Poor, weak beer or other inferior alcoholic beverage; rotgut.
    Synonym: swipes
    • 1984, Ronald T. Takaki, Pau Hana: Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii, 1835-1920, →ISBN, page 134:
      Woozy with swipe was the only way I could stay down with patience for work.
    • 1990, Charles Langlas & James Ahia, The People of Kalapana, 1823-1950:
      JJ: Did a lot of people drink? KP: Down here, oh yeah, a lot of them made their own swipe, their own potato and pineapple swipe.
    • 1998, Gary Pak, Pak: A Ricepaper Airplane, →ISBN, page 73:
      Sung Wha knows it's pineapple swipe they are drinking. Hoping that they might sell him some of the stuff, he approaches them with the dollar bill out. One worker, sucking on a fat, wet stub of a cigar, waves off the offer and shakes his head: no we aren't selling the swipe, the swipe is for us to drink and enjoy.
    • 2012, James Jones, The World War II Trilogy, →ISBN:
      Only the nights—of sitting out in the moonlight drinking the horrible tasting swipe and talking, the thinking about women —remained unchanged.