sway

1 of 2

noun

1
: the action or an instance of swaying or of being swayed : an oscillating, fluctuating, or sweeping motion
2
: an inclination or deflection caused by or as if by swaying
3
a
: a controlling influence
b
: sovereign power : dominion
c
: the ability to exercise influence or authority : dominance

sway

2 of 2

verb

swayed; swaying; sways

intransitive verb

1
a
: to swing slowly and rhythmically back and forth from a base or pivot
b
: to move gently from an upright to a leaning position
2
: to hold sway : act as ruler or governor
3
: to fluctuate or veer between one point, position, or opinion and another

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause to sway : set to swinging, rocking, or oscillating
b
: to cause to bend downward to one side
c
: to cause to turn aside : deflect, divert
2
archaic
a
: wield
b
3
a
: to cause to vacillate
b
: to exert a guiding or controlling influence on
4
: to hoist in place
sway up a mast
swayer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for sway

Noun

power, authority, jurisdiction, control, command, sway, dominion mean the right to govern or rule or determine.

power implies possession of ability to wield force, authority, or influence.

the power to mold public opinion

authority implies power for a specific purpose within specified limits.

granted the authority to manage her estate

jurisdiction applies to official power exercised within prescribed limits.

the bureau having jurisdiction over parks

control stresses the power to direct and restrain.

you are responsible for the students under your control

command implies the power to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience.

the army officer in command

sway suggests the extent of exercised power or influence.

the empire extended its sway over the region

dominion stresses sovereign power or supreme authority.

given dominion over all the animals

Verb

swing, sway, oscillate, vibrate, fluctuate, waver, undulate mean to move from one direction to its opposite.

swing implies a movement of something attached at one end or one side.

the door suddenly swung open

sway implies a slow swinging or teetering movement.

trees swaying in the breeze

oscillate stresses a usually regular alternation of direction.

an oscillating fan

vibrate suggests the rapid oscillation of an elastic body under stress or impact.

the vibrating strings of a piano

fluctuate suggests constant irregular changes of level, intensity, or value.

fluctuating interest rates

waver stresses irregular motion suggestive of reeling or tottering.

the exhausted runner wavered before collapsing

undulate suggests a gentle wavelike motion.

an undulating sea of grass

affect, influence, touch, impress, strike, sway mean to produce or have an effect upon.

affect implies the action of a stimulus that can produce a response or reaction.

the sight affected her to tears

influence implies a force that brings about a change (as in nature or behavior).

our beliefs are influenced by our upbringing

touch may carry a vivid suggestion of close contact and may connote stirring, arousing, or harming.

plants touched by frost
his emotions were touched by her distress

impress stresses the depth and persistence of the effect.

only one of the plans impressed him

strike, similar to but weaker than impress, may convey the notion of sudden sharp perception or appreciation.

struck by the solemnity of the occasion

sway implies the acting of influences that are not resisted or are irresistible, with resulting change in character or course of action.

politicians who are swayed by popular opinion

Examples of sway in a Sentence

Noun the sway of the ship He has come under the sway of terrorists. The ancient Romans held sway over most of Europe. Verb branches swaying in the breeze He swayed a moment before he fainted. The lawyer tried to sway the jury. She persisted in her argument, but I wouldn't let her sway me. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
But the plan drew fierce criticism from House Republicans and former President Donald Trump, who holds significant sway among GOP lawmakers. Kaia Hubbard, CBS News, 7 Feb. 2024 China has been a key driver of its expansion as leader Xi Jinping pushes an alternative world order, forging closer partnerships with key global players from Russia to the Middle East and strengthening international bodies where Beijing holds sway. Simone McCarthy, CNN, 1 Feb. 2024 European political and military leaders – including British Conservatives who hoped to hold some sway with Trump-supporting Republicans – have been knocking on congressional doors in recent weeks with the message that not just Ukraine’s survival but Western Europe’s freedom is on the line. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, 30 Jan. 2024 But Iran, Iraq's powerful eastern neighbor, holds significant sway over the Iraqi government and the Shiite militias that are nominally under Iraqi government control. Anne Flaherty, ABC News, 25 Jan. 2024 Of these four, the external leadership, which runs Hamas’s political bureau, has generally held sway over policy. Foreign Affairs, 11 Dec. 2023 On the grounds, bordering the golf course, are all manner of reminders that a power couple held sway. Sacramento Bee, 30 Jan. 2024 Protecting movement means moving less or moving rigidly, without the natural sway of the body’s joints. Alexi C. Cardona, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 Other factors involve the petitioner’s childhood, including any mistreatment, and whether the offender’s crime was committed under the sway of an older person. Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2024
Verb
Moreover, neither the oil-dependent countries nor the oil companies sway the outcome of IPCC's reports. Ken Silverstein, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 Post Malone honored the country at Super Bowl 2024 — and Taylor Swift and BFF Blake Lively were swaying in appreciation! Ilana Kaplan, Peoplemag, 12 Feb. 2024 Both swayed as the driver rumbled through downtown San Diego. Blake Nelson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Feb. 2024 American venture capital firms have also tried to sway U.S. officials and regulators on behalf of Chinese companies in their portfolio, like TikTok. Erin Griffith, New York Times, 8 Feb. 2024 Disney earnings rose after the bell thanks to the beat and the flurry of announcements, though the activists do not seem swayed. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Feb. 2024 Takacs said signs of impairment during the test included Grossman taking nine steps instead of eight and swaying during the one-leg-stand test. Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 6 Feb. 2024 But something about the eagerness in Wexler swayed Joel to consider the idea. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 6 Feb. 2024 Meanwhile, TikTok’s aggressive public-relations strategy has swayed 13 percent of non-TikTok users to back the app after railing against it in 2023. Jimmy Byrn, National Review, 2 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English sweigh, from sweyen

Verb

alteration of earlier swey to fall, swoon, from Middle English sweyen, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse sveigja to sway; akin to Lithuanian svaigti to become dizzy

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near sway

Cite this Entry

“Sway.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sway. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

sway

1 of 2 noun
1
: the action or an instance of swaying or of being swayed
2
: a bending or twisting caused by or as if by swaying
3
: controlling force or influence : rule

sway

2 of 2 verb
1
a
: to swing or cause to swing slowly back and forth
b
: to move gently from an upright to a leaning position
2
: to change often between one point, position, or opinion and another
3
: to have a strong influence upon
swayer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on sway

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