\ 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

That slate, which ran Modine — and previously counted Austin as an adherent — held sway from 2005 to 2009, and wants back in the driver’s seat. Jonathan Handel, The Hollywood Reporter, ""We Have a Lot of Work Ahead": SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris on Next Steps After Election Win (Q&A)," 30 Aug. 2019 But for all of her attempts to avoid political albatrosses, the Queen, by definition, holds sway over a wide range of government actions. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, "How Boris Johnson Just Put the Queen in an Unprecedented Brexit Bind," 28 Aug. 2019 Holding on to opposite elbows, sway forward and back, and side to side. Stephanie Mansour, NBC News, "7 energizing moves to replace your afternoon coffee habit," 31 July 2019 Even when Keynesian ideas held sway, there were dissidents, led by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, who argued for a minimal government role. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: ‘Inflation is solved’? Don’t bank on it," 28 July 2019 In the rest of America large, centralised donut bakers such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme hold sway, but neither has successfully penetrated the Los Angeles market. The Economist, "How donuts fuelled the American Dream," 26 July 2019 In the past couple of years, New York bars and restaurants have come to embrace the Aperol spritz, a drink that has held sway in Italy as an ideal summer refresher. Charles Passy, WSJ, "This Classic Italian Cocktail Keeps Inspiring New York Spinoffs," 6 July 2019 Lyon’s attorneys note that courts in some other states, where the doctrine once held sway, have opted to throw it out. Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, "Washington firefighter badly burned in 2015 Twisp River fire now fighting law that won’t let him collect damages," 19 Aug. 2019 Finally, note that livestock interests have held sway over wildlife management for over a century. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Exposing abuse in the Boy Scouts of America (8/11/19)," 11 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The building — equipped on each floor with seismic sensors — swayed back and forth for perhaps two to three minutes and as much as one foot in each direction, said Caltech research professor of civil engineering Monica Kohler. Los Angeles Times, "Earthquake shook L.A. skyscrapers so hard some got vertigo," 15 Aug. 2019 But then the whole building began to sway back and forth menacingly, including the screen backdrop and huge rose dangling from the ceiling. Ellise Shafer, Billboard, "Shawn Mendes Gives Earth-Shaking Performance at Los Angeles Concert," 6 July 2019 In Rodriguez’s start Sunday in London against the Yankees, the Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but a 38-pitch second inning — and two Yankee runs — swayed some of the momentum back in the foes’ favor. Julian Mcwilliams, BostonGlobe.com, "Red Sox’ fireworks give Eduardo Rodriguez something to celebrate," 6 July 2019 As Sunny continues to sing, the crowd cheers her on while swaying their hands in the air, back and forth. Eric Todisco, PEOPLE.com, "Dream Come True! Adam Sandler's 10-Year-Old Daughter Performs Greatest Showman Hit Song on Stage," 27 June 2019 Critics also worry that the chief executive, who makes the final decision on any extradition request, will be swayed by Beijing’s influence, given that the position is effectively Beijing-appointed. Mary Hui, Quartz, "Everything you need to know about Hong Kong’s extradition law," 11 June 2019 Mesmer hoped the medical and scientific communities would be swayed by his patients’ glowing testimonials. National Geographic, "Was this hypnotic health craze an elaborate hoax or a medical breakthrough?," 5 Mar. 2019 Storms may cause the tree to sway back and forth, but its roots remain firmly planted. Melissa Blake, Harper's BAZAAR, "To Kate Spade’s Daughter...From Someone Who Has Been There," 6 June 2018 The game swayed back to the Cougarettes in the top of the sixth with two runs on RBI doubles by Sydney Owens and Bailey Zibelin. Rob Tate, Houston Chronicle, "Atascocita claims first state softball title in school history," 2 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 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

What made you want to look up sway? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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