\ ˈswän How to pronounce swan (audio) \
plural swans

Definition of swan

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 plural also swan : any of various large heavy-bodied long-necked mostly pure white aquatic birds (family Anatidae, especially genus Cygnus) that have webbed feet and are related to but larger than the geese
2 : one that resembles or is likened to a swan
3 capitalized : the constellation Cygnus
swanned; swanning

Definition of swan (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

: to wander aimlessly or idly : dally
swanned; swanning

Definition of swan (Entry 3 of 4)


geographical name
\ ˈswän How to pronounce Swan (audio) \
variants: or in its upper course Avon \ ˈa-​vən How to pronounce Avon (audio) \

Definition of Swan (Entry 4 of 4)

river about 240 miles (386 kilometers) long in southwestern Western Australia flowing west into the Indian Ocean

Illustration of swan

Illustration of swan


swan 1

In the meaning defined above

First Known Use of swan


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

1942, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

1784, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for swan


Middle English, from Old English; akin to Middle High German swan and perhaps to Latin sonus sound — more at sound entry 1

Verb (2)

perhaps euphemism for swear

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about swan

Time Traveler for swan

Time Traveler

The first known use of swan was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for swan

Cite this Entry

“Swan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swan. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for swan


How to pronounce Swan (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of swan

: a large usually white bird that lives on or near water and that has a very long and graceful neck


\ ˈswän How to pronounce swan (audio) \

Kids Definition of swan

: a usually white waterbird that has a long neck and large body and is related to but larger than the goose

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on swan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for swan

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with swan

Spanish Central: Translation of swan

Nglish: Translation of swan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of swan for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about swan

Comments on swan

What made you want to look up swan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!