\ ˈswā \

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

b : govern, rule

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


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.


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

Still, guidelines from the preventive services task force hold sway with insurers and primary care doctors. Marie Mccullough, chicagotribune.com, "Updated osteoporosis screening guidelines cover only women. That could hurt men," 27 June 2018 Still, guidelines from the preventive services task force hold sway with insurers and primary care doctors. Marie Mccullough, Philly.com, "Updated osteoporosis screening guidelines cover only women. That could hurt men," 26 June 2018 Ballard appears to have significant sway with Irsay. Stephen Holder, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Colts' Chris Ballard faces defining moment in team's coaching search," 3 Jan. 2018 Swaths of the country remain under the bloody sway of criminal gangs fighting turf wars. Juan Montes, WSJ, "Mexicans Say They Will Vote for Change," 29 June 2018 Under the sway of Peter Navarro, an economist from UC Irvine, the Trump White House has treated the U.S. trade deficit with China as the whole economic ballgame. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "A radical trade prescription from the Federal Reserve: Stop complaining about China, and pay U.S. workers better," 12 June 2018 Raniere also stressed that departing members were under the sway of the scientific principle of cognitive dissonance. Vanessa Grigoriadis, New York Times, "The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment," 30 May 2018 Baixauli said that politicians in Washington, under the sway of the NRA, also have blocked efforts for a national gun registry. Charles Rabin And Jay Weaver, miamiherald, "In wake of Parkland massacre, police chiefs — again — call for assault-weapons ban," 19 Feb. 2018 The intellectual Left has long been under the sway of postmodernism, which denies that objective truth exists. Mona Charen, National Review, "Pursuing the Truth Requires Modesty about Ourselves," 1 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Moreover, attitudes towards immigrants are volatile and swayed by the political climate. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 July 2018 Whitaker was not impressed, saying he is swayed by the opposition among many Gary residents to having the Maya Energy project in their city. Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune, "Gary recycling facility gets 6-month permit extension; protests continue," 12 July 2018 The lawmakers said they weren't swayed by the money. Angela Hart, sacbee, "Doctors, nurses, insurance companies spending big to influence California's health care future," 6 July 2018 Some town officials along the corridor say they were swayed by the promise of $18 million in added annual tax revenue, which would be distributed among 38 communities. Jon Kamp, WSJ, "In Need of Electricity, Massachusetts Looks to the North—Again," 6 July 2018 That ultimately did not appear to be the case, and Murkowski was not swayed. Erica Martinson, Anchorage Daily News, "Supreme Court vacancy puts Murkowski in the middle, again," 29 June 2018 Your information will be used as described in our Privacy Notice James Harden said LeBron James' upcoming free-agent decision won't be swayed by fancy presentations or outside influences. Reid Laymance, Houston Chronicle, "James Harden on LeBron James: It's about business, family," 25 June 2018 That expert, in an attempt to have Dunn ruled incompetent to stand trial, said Elliott was developmentally delayed and easily swayed by leading questions from police and authority figures. Keith Bierygolick, Cincinnati.com, "Why did Ohio man hold woman captive in Blanchester shed? An imaginary prostitution ring.," 14 June 2018 Yonaha feared that younger adults in Japan were not mature enough to consider the political implications of their votes, and could be easily swayed by the government agenda. Emiko Jozuka, CNN, "Japan lowers its age of adulthood to 18," 14 June 2018

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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Learn More about sway

Dictionary Entries near sway


S wave





sway bar

Statistics for sway

Last Updated

9 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sway

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

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More Definitions for sway



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 \
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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Comments on sway

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