\ 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
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

Pat Dowell, the 3rd Ward alderman who held sway over the project thanks to a long-standing tradition known as aldermanic prerogative. Chicago Tribune Staff, chicagotribune.com, "Daywatch: Chicago immigrants fear ICE raids, never forget our original lagoon gators and other things to know to start your day," 12 July 2019 Such notions should hold sway at the Trump White House. The Economist, "France’s digital tax riles the White House," 11 July 2019 There are stories Americans have long told themselves about their country, stories that — depending on the prevailing mix of cynicism, optimism and realism — still hold sway. Carlos Lozada, Houston Chronicle, "Are we telling the right story of America?," 6 July 2019 Women choose their mates, not the other way around, and the climax of the festival is the choosing of the May Queen, who then holds sway over the final, devastating ceremony. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "Midsommar Makes Haunting Horror Out Of Sunlight & Flower Crowns," 28 June 2019 Besides, the marital presumption, though rebuttable, still holds sway in our legal system—not, these days, so much to preserve the institution of family as to protect the best interests of children. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, "The Paternity Reveal," 24 June 2019 Notwithstanding battles in Germany and other contentious regions, Augustus initiated a tranquil era known as the Pax Romana that held sway for generations. National Geographic, "Who was Augustus Caesar?," 20 May 2019 While the state’s largest cities of Louisville and Lexington have held pride festivals for at least a decade, the events have been absent in small-town Kentucky, where more conservative attitudes have held sway. Chris Kenning, The Courier-Journal, "'Things have changed': Pride parades spread across rural Kentucky as LGBT acceptance grows," 13 June 2019 In this context, the study is seen among senior officials as an exercise in gaming out how markets might react if demand falls so much that OPEC loses sway and disbands, the adviser said. Benoit Faucon, WSJ, "Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s Anchor, Ponders a Future Without the Cartel," 8 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Some have observed that to a certain extent, the government’s handling of the mass protests of recent weeks has, whether intentionally or not, sent a message to demonstrators that merely peaceful rallies are not enough to sway official policy. Mary Hui, Quartz, "How to understand the symbolic occupation—and destruction—of Hong Kong’s legislature," 2 July 2019 LeBron James and Anthony Davis, whom the Lakers will acquire from New Orleans when the new business year opens July 6, also will meet with Leonard to sway him to help the Lakers become the new super team, people with knowledge of their plans said. latimes.com, "Kawhi Leonard only wants to meet with Magic Johnson, Jeanie Buss during Lakers visit," 28 June 2019 The constancy of the message begins to sway Nugget's belief in the goodness of her friend. Denise Coffey, Courant Community, "Ashford, Eastford Students Delighted With "Nugget And Fang" Production," 12 June 2018 Is there anybody in Californa better to sway undecided Democrats than Jerry Brown? Michael Smolens, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Gov. Jerry Brown endorses 'good man' Sheriff Bill Gore," 29 May 2018 Any chance other teams adding stars up ie Clippers, Lakers sways KD’s decision? Mark Medina, The Mercury News, "Warriors mailbag: What’s the latest on Kevin Durant’s future?," 28 June 2019 Environmentalists said the deal gives Campland a foothold that might sway the city’s final decisions about how much of the park’s northeast corner gets devoted to camping and recreation and how much will be restored marshland. San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego approves Campland lease extension, larger footprint," 25 June 2019 Several Russian delegates to the parliamentary assembly are currently under European Union sanctions, though this didn’t sway the majority that gave them their voting rights back. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Europe Starts to Lose Its Nerve on Russia," 25 June 2019 There are a number of free questions that loom over Leonard’s free agency, the answers to which could sway the decision for the league’s preeminent free agent. Michael Shapiro, SI.com, "Five Big Questions Surrounding Kawhi Leonard's NBA Free Agency," 25 June 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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Learn More about sway

Dictionary Entries near sway


S wave





sway bar

Statistics for sway

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sway

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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

Comments on sway

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to complain fretfully

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