\ ˈswā How to pronounce sway (audio) \

Definition of sway

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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
3a : a controlling influence
b : sovereign power : dominion
c : the ability to exercise influence or authority : dominance


swayed; swaying; sways

Definition of sway (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : 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

1a : 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
3a : to cause to vacillate
b : to exert a guiding or controlling influence on
4 : to hoist in place sway up a mast

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Other Words from sway


swayer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sway


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


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 the sexy sway of her hips 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In a brutally swift transition, the country that had led the charge for Third World development outside the strict binary of the Cold War fell under the sway of the ruthless pro-U.S. General Suharto. Andre Pagliarini, The New Republic, "Where America Developed a Taste for State Violence," 5 June 2020 Such ideas held sway until Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 and made abundantly clear that China was headed for neither free enterprise nor a free press nor any other sort of political change. James Mann, Washington Post, "A Wuhan writer, on the ground at the center of the outbreak," 2 July 2020 While BlackRock’s influence in Europe pales in comparison to its sway in the U.S., its more subtle maneuvering there might be a preview of what to expect from a Democratic administration that includes former BlackRock executives. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "Is BlackRock the New Vampire Squid?," 26 June 2020 However, TikTok is currently exploring ways to monetize its position in India; consolidating its user base there could give the app more sway with advertisers. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "How Bytedance is trying to consolidate TikTok’s user base in India," 15 June 2020 McSally's amendment was adopted earlier this month as part of the overall changes recommended by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who similarly holds key sway over the military's budget as Senate Armed Services chairman. Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, "Gallego, McSally trying to protect the A-10 'Warthog,' a boost to Tucson," 30 June 2020 In both Egypt and Tunisia, no strong institutions guided the process from revolution to democracy, allowing leaders to exert tremendous sway. Daniel Byman, Washington Post, "For the Middle East, the Arab Spring was a rare chance to control its own fate," 26 June 2020 Herrera’s memo also alleges that Hui sought Wong’s help in getting city jobs for his son and his son’s girlfriend, which may provide a window into the sway Wong held over city departments, despite not being a government employee. Megan Cassidy, SFChronicle.com, "SF permit consultant Walter Wong charged with fraud, agrees to cooperate with Justice Department," 24 June 2020 On social media many videos showed the sickening sway of buildings throughout Mexico City, which lies some 300 miles to the northwest. National Geographic, "Why the Oaxaca earthquake made buildings sway hundreds of miles away," 23 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb While the results may in theory sway some last-minute deciders, many of those who mail in ballots will have already made their choice -- - especially if mail-in ballots happen in greater numbers this year as a result of Covid-19 concerns. Fortune, "How ugly will it get? The U.S. is set to release a historically bad GDP report," 29 July 2020 Now, there's an economic argument for mask wearing that might just sway the remaining few who are reluctant to wear masks to protect others. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, "Everyone wearing face masks could save America from a $1 trillion GDP loss," 9 July 2020 Arizona is a battleground state in national elections and could sway the outcome of the 2020 presidential race. Taylor Seely, The Arizona Republic, "Valley 101 introduces season two of Rediscovering, this time on SB 1070," 7 July 2020 Two Kentucky law professors agree that the conditions now in place to require treatment do not seem to meet the due process requirement of the Constitution, the argument most see as egregious enough to sway the courts and change the law. Sarah Haselhorst, The Enquirer, "Under a challenge of constitutionality, the future of Casey's Law is cloaked and uncertain," 10 July 2020 DuBois knew the power of displaying Black images to sway the American consciousness. Ainissa G. Ramirez, Scientific American, "Black Images Matter: How Cameras Helped—and Sometimes Harmed—Black People," 8 July 2020 Work slowdowns are generally organized to sway public opinion of the police force. Erin Corbett, refinery29.com, "Police Are Going On Strike. Should Anyone Care?," 23 June 2020 In 2017, Facebook confirmed via a case study of the election that groups had used the platform to sway the outcome in favor of Donald Trump, according to a CNBC timeline. Eliza Huber, refinery29.com, "Levi’s Joins Patagonia & More In Facebook Boycott," 30 June 2020 Having an alternate site available for the monument – particularly one with the history of Maple Hill – could help sway opinion in favor of relocating the Madison County monument, according to councilman Bill Kling. Paul Gattis | Pgattis@al.com, al, "Huntsville city council: Move Confederate monument to historic Maple Hill Cemetery," 26 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sway.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of sway


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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

History and Etymology for sway


Middle English sweigh, from sweyen


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

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Time Traveler for sway

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sway

Last Updated

1 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sway.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sway. Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for sway


How to pronounce sway (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sway

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a slow movement back and forth
: a controlling force or influence



English Language Learners Definition of sway (Entry 2 of 2)

: to move slowly back and forth
: to cause (someone) to agree with you or to share your opinion


\ ˈswā How to pronounce sway (audio) \
swayed; swaying

Kids Definition of sway

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to swing slowly back and forth or from side to side Tree branches were swaying in the wind.
2 : to change or cause to change between one point, position, or opinion and another The lawyer tried to sway the jury.



Kids Definition of sway (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of slowly swinging back and forth or from side to side
2 : a controlling influence or force : rule The country is under the sway of a tyrant.

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More from Merriam-Webster on sway

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sway

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sway

Spanish Central: Translation of sway

Nglish: Translation of sway for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sway for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sway

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