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plural swans
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
: one that resembles or is likened to a swan
capitalized : the constellation Cygnus

Illustration of swan

Illustration of swan
  • swan 1


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verb (1)

swanned; swanning

intransitive verb

: to wander aimlessly or idly : dally


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verb (2)

swanned; swanning

Examples of swan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
They are joined by ducks, two swans and other Chinese geese. Wendy Grossman Kantor, Peoplemag, 18 May 2024 In the middle, a grid of six square images show animals, including a swan and a dog, hovering above a nocturnal mountainous landscape or a mosque. Zoe Ruffner Camille Sojit Pejcha Zoe Ruffner Kyle Beechey Osman Can Yerebakan Samuel Rutter, New York Times, 16 May 2024 Loons and swans pick up the lead tackle pieces while looking for pebbles needed for their digestive system. John Myers, Twin Cities, 11 May 2024 But in the 18th and 19th centuries, the automaton — an intricate mechanical device that could take the form of a preening silver swan or an organ-playing doll — was a popular source of entertainment and wonder. Megan Conway, New York Times, 9 May 2024 The swans found themselves constantly in the public eye and always sported the latest designer looks, dined at the poshest restaurants and attended New York City’s most exclusive parties. Dana Rose Falcone, Peoplemag, 15 Feb. 2024 Image Image The couples include Helen of Troy and Paris, who is identified in the scene with a Greek inscription by his other name, Alexandros, while a panel on the same wall shows Helen’s parents: Leda, queen of Sparta, and Zeus, depicted as the swan who seduced her. Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 His infamous Black and White ball is chronicled in painstaking detail over an entire episode with Zac Posen brought in to design the swans’ gowns (Murphy veteran Lou Eyrich handles the rest of the show's costumes with aplomb—and real vintage). Vogue, 21 Mar. 2024 The term black swan event has been around for decades and is used to describe a major global event (typically in the financial markets) that can cause significant damage to a country’s economy. David Gilbert, WIRED, 27 Mar. 2024
This season reaches its pinnacle of camp with a visit from Oscar Wilde himself (Jordan Sebastian Waller), who swans through a crowd of Manhattan elite dropping droll asides after the premiere of his first play, Vera; or, The Nihilists. EW.com, 27 Oct. 2023 The music video, in which Tay swans around a Malibu mansion in a pastel two-piece, was more controversial. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 13 Nov. 2023 People, especially San Francisco old-timers, like to talk about the way our politicos tend to swan through the dining room at lunchtime, shaking outstretched hands on the way to their favorite tables. Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Oct. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'swan.' 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, 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

First Known Use


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near swan

Cite this Entry

“Swan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swan. Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural swans also swan
: any of various large heavy-bodied long-necked usually pure white water birds with webbed feet that are related to but larger than the geese

Geographical Definition


geographical name

variants or in its upper course Avon
river about 240 miles (386 kilometers) long in southwestern Western Australia flowing west into the Indian Ocean
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