\ 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 Calculations by The Economist suggest that the amount of direct control over carbon emissions exerted by companies in which investors hold sway is lower than is often thought. The Economist, "Hotting up How much can financiers do about climate change?," 20 June 2020 Experts say Quicken could opt to issue different classes of shares for Gilbert, his top managers and other insiders with higher voting rights than general shareholders, giving them more sway over the company's direction. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Quicken Loans IPO: Why it may need the cash and who gets rich," 20 June 2020 Perhaps the government did not fully comprehend the sway of a man with nearly three million Twitter followers, 8.4 million on Instagram and 3.3 million on Facebook. Aimee Lewis, CNN, "Marcus Rashford, the gifted Manchester United star who became a remarkable activist," 17 June 2020 The work-from-home concept may become the next fulcrum for home-buying decisions, where the walk-to-work option had held the longest sway. Anuj Puri, Quartz India, "The work-from-home culture could change how Indians buy homes," 16 June 2020 The court's decision, arriving amid a painful national debate over racial justice and policing, was also hailed as a boon to more rural areas of Kentucky, where LGBTQ rights advocates are fewer and conservative religious views still hold sway. Chris Kenning, The Courier-Journal, "Supreme Court's LGBTQ ruling 'historic,' but advocates say gaps remain in Kentucky," 15 June 2020 Where mainstream opinion quickly converged on flattening the curve, Boris Johnson sang the praises of a herd immunity strategy, an idea that continues to hold sway among many skeptics in the United States. Ari Schulman, The New Republic, "The Coronavirus and the Right’s Scientific Counterrevolution," 15 June 2020 Many Republicans want federal law to override state-level rules for privacy, while Democrats have argued stronger state statutes should hold sway and want individuals to be able to sue companies for privacy violations. David Uberti, WSJ, "Coronavirus Privacy Bills Hit Roadblocks in Congress," 15 June 2020 Moreover, the French state owns 15% of Renault with double voting rights, giving it indirect sway over the Japanese company. Reed Stevenson, Bloomberg.com, "Nissan Email Trail Casts New Light on Carlos Ghosn Takedown," 15 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The central portion of California was rattled by an earthquake Wednesday that caused lights to sway in homes and people to be jolted awake, one day after a deadly quake in Mexico. Fox News, "Magnitude 5.8 earthquake rattles central California," 24 June 2020 The Brown Shirt’s mission was to riot, burn, beat up and kill citizens in an effort to sway the elections to ensure their National Socialist agenda. Mariah Timms, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Did Adolf Hitler defund the police in Nazi Germany?," 19 June 2020 Using words to sway external black stakeholders in printed press releases, public statements, or on the website is performative allyship. Karen Yuan, Fortune, "Black employees say performative allyship is rampant in the office," 19 June 2020 Not one to sip a drink and gently sway to the beat, Snooki put her former cheerleading skills to good use and proceeded to back flip her way across the dance floor. Derek Lawrence, EW.com, "The party's leaving: Snooki's snookiest Jersey Shore moments," 18 June 2020 American intelligence and national security agencies concluded that Moscow was behind efforts to sway the 2016 election in favor of Trump. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "Fiona Hill: Moscow must be delighted at how it sowed political chaos in America," 12 June 2020 Recognize the limitations in your knowledge and in your ability to sway your relatives. NBC News, "How to talk to your Asian immigrant parents about racism," 11 June 2020 Trump has not managed to disabuse the public of suspicions that his financial interests sway his outlook on the national interest. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "Can the Constitution Reach Trump’s Corruption?," 9 June 2020 Rather, the goal would be to help sway soccer moms in the Phoenix suburbs and prompt troubled GOP party loyalists outside Detroit to leave the presidential line blank. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The Revolt of the Center-Right," 8 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

26 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

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