\ 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 The group once held sway over millions of Syrians and Iraqis in an area the size of Britain. The Economist, "Islamic State after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," 2 Nov. 2019 In Utah, the state’s predominant religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches abstinence from alcohol and strict liquor laws continue to hold sway. Washington Post, "Last call: Utah is set to tap out on low-alcohol beer sales," 31 Oct. 2019 In Utah, the state’s predominant religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches abstinence from alcohol and strict liquor laws continue to hold sway. Lindsay Whitehurst, Twin Cities, "Utah says goodbye to low-alcohol beer sales; Minnesota now last state with 3.2% beer," 31 Oct. 2019 The president also appoints senators to committees and leadership posts, and holds sway over which legislation gets serious consideration and which doesn’t. Luke Broadwater, baltimoresun.com, "Miller says he’ll step down as Maryland Senate president; Democrats pick Baltimore’s Bill Ferguson to replace him," 24 Oct. 2019 Kroll slammed the Democratic Party, which has held sway in the state for close to 47 years, and which Trump is determined to flip in the upcoming election. Fox News, "Minneapolis police union boss hits back at mayor ahead of Trump rally," 11 Oct. 2019 The Taliban are at their strongest since their ouster in 2001 and hold sway over more than half the country, staging near-daily, deadly attacks across Afghanistan. Rahim Faiez, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Afghan officials say raid killed top Al-Qaeda commander," 8 Oct. 2019 And this fundamentally upends the dynamic that held sway for months. Greg Sargent, The Denver Post, "Sargent: Trump is cornered — and panicking about it," 30 Sep. 2019 And what about fossil-fuels companies and their sway? Dan Zak, Washington Post, "CNN’s epic town hall on climate was a perfect time capsule for an unprecedented moment," 5 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Footage of the moment shows the star gamely waving his arm and swaying his hips to the former Fifth Harmony member’s breakout single from a rooftop. Glenn Rowley, Billboard, "This Video Of Jeff Goldblum Dancing to Normani's 'Motivation' Is the Best Thing You'll See Today," 4 Sep. 2019 When Taylor Swift opened the ceremony with a colorful performance, Gigi was already standing up and swaying to the music. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Gigi and Bella Hadid's Reactions to the VMAs Were Almost Better than the Actual Show," 27 Aug. 2019 We will not be swayed by small-minded Republicans who seek to build a wall against Chicago and strive to use diversity as a political weapon. Rick Pearson, chicagotribune.com, "At Illinois State Fair, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urges Democrats to ‘catch the spark of Illinois,’ and Gov. J.B. Pritzker blasts those who pit Downstate against Chicago," 14 Aug. 2019 That way, there can be no credible claim that the grand jurors in one case were swayed by allegations filed by another grand jury. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Why It’s Unlikely the McCabe Grand Jury Voted against Indictment," 14 Sep. 2019 Bili, meanwhile, slouches through the film, increasingly cognizant of the losses that have defined her life, nearly swayed by the prospect of moving back to China. Zoë Hu, The New Republic, "Crazy Sad Asians," 27 Aug. 2019 Stay centered in your truth; don't let yourself be swayed right now. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive.com, "Horoscope for July 12, 2019: Libra, keep your focus on your own life; Capricorn, put business matters on the back burner," 12 July 2019 Palm trees sway, the ocean beckons, the sun shines. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "Painter Reginald Marsh’s tropical watercolors of Cuba at the Benton," 16 Sep. 2019 Wednesday’s announcement came despite months of aggressive lobbying by Juul, which spent $1.9 million in the first half of the year to try and sway the White House, Congress and the FDA. Matthew Perrone, Twin Cities, "Government plans to ban flavors used in e-cigarettes," 11 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for sway

Last Updated

18 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for sway

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

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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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