: rustic, peasant
specifically : shepherd
: a male admirer or suitor
swainish adjective
swainishness noun

Examples of swain in a Sentence

a fair maiden and her swain a romanticized portrait of a bygone era of beauteous Southern belles and their gallant swains
Recent Examples on the Web Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth return for the fourth time as ace archer Everdeen and her pair of devoted swains, director Francis Lawrence is back for his third film, and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong mark this as their second effort. Carlos De Loera, Los Angeles Times, 19 Nov. 2023 The old residents remember when San Luis Rey was the second locality in the county, and the feast of San Luis (26th August) was an important epoch, with it, carreras and bades, forming the chief topic of conversation with dusky swain and maiden for miles around. Merrie Monteagudo, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 July 2021 The hustling, athletic girl will forget the links and make sheep’s eyes at her amorous swain. San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Oct. 2022 Torn between two possible husbands, Ali Hakim (Benj Mirman), the peddler who enjoys playing the field, and Will Parker (Hennessy Winkler), the simple-minded swain desperate to marry her, Sis’ Ado Annie ricochets like a slippery pinball. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2022 There’s intrigue upstairs and down: Will Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) be loyal to her absentee husband or succumb to the attentions of a flirty swain? Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 18 May 2022 In this idyllic arbor, our young maiden, Queenie, met her swain, Mr. Darcy. Kevin Fisher-Paulson, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 May 2022 Aaron Tveit plays a sweet-talking swain who tries to steal away Melissa through song, much to the chagrin of the musicals-hating Josh. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, 19 July 2021 Maleficent is jilted by a swain who prefers power to love. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 26 May 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'swain.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English swein boy, servant, from Old Norse sveinn; akin to Old English swān swain, Latin suus one's own — more at suicide

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of swain was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near swain

Cite this Entry

“Swain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swain. Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a male admirer or lover
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