\ ˈswēp How to pronounce sweep (audio) \
swept\ ˈswept How to pronounce swept (audio) \; sweeping

Definition of sweep

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to remove from a surface with or as if with a broom or brush swept the crumbs from the table
b : to destroy completely : wipe out usually used with awayeverything she cherished, might be swept away overnight— Louis Bromfield
c : to remove or take with a single continuous forceful action swept the books off the desk
d : to remove from sight or consideration the problem can't be swept under the rug
e : to drive or carry along with irresistible force a wave of protest that swept the opposition into office
2a : to clean with or as if with a broom or brush
b : to clear by repeated and forcible action
c : to move across or along swiftly, violently, or overwhelmingly fire swept the business districtAmer. Guide Series: Md.
d : to win an overwhelming victory in or on sweep the elections
e : to win all the games or contests of sweep a double-header sweep a series
3 : to touch in passing with a swift continuous movement
4 : to trace or describe the locus or extent of (something, such as a line, circle, or angle)
5 : to cover the entire range of his eyes swept the horizon

intransitive verb

1a : to clean a surface with or as if with a broom
b : to move swiftly, forcefully, or devastatingly the wind swept through the treetops
2 : to go with stately or sweeping movements proudly swept into the room
3 : to move or extend in a wide curve or range
sweep one off one's feet
: to gain immediate and unquestioning support, approval, or acceptance by a person
sweep the board or sweep the table
1 : to win all the bets on the table
2 : to win everything : beat all competitors



Definition of sweep (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something that sweeps or works with a sweeping motion: such as
a : a long pole or timber pivoted on a tall post and used to raise and lower a bucket in a well
b : a triangular cultivator blade that cuts off weeds under the soil surface
c : a windmill sail
2a : an instance of sweeping especially : a clearing out or away with or as if with a broom
b : the removal from the table in one play in casino of all the cards by pairing or combining
c : an overwhelming victory
d : a winning of all the contests or prizes in a competition
e : a wide-ranging search of an area (as by police)
3a : a movement of great range and force
b : a curving or circular course or line
c : the compass of a sweeping movement : scope
d : a broad unbroken area or extent a sweep of wildflowers
e : an end run in football in which one or more linemen pull back and run interference for the ballcarrier
6 : obliquity with respect to a reference line sweep of an airplane wing especially : sweepback
7 sweeps plural : a television ratings period during which surveys are taken to determine advertising rates

Illustration of sweep

Illustration of sweep


sweep 1a

In the meaning defined above

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Choose the Right Synonym for sweep


range, gamut, compass, sweep, scope, orbit mean the extent that lies within the powers of something (as to cover or control). range is a general term indicating the extent of one's perception or the extent of powers, capacities, or possibilities. the entire range of human experience gamut suggests a graduated series running from one possible extreme to another. a performance that ran the gamut of emotions compass implies a sometimes limited extent of perception, knowledge, or activity. your concerns lie beyond the narrow compass of this study sweep suggests extent, often circular or arc-shaped, of motion or activity. the book covers the entire sweep of criminal activity scope is applicable to an area of activity, predetermined and limited, but somewhat flexible. as time went on, the scope of the investigation widened orbit suggests an often circumscribed range of activity or influence within which forces work toward accommodation. within that restricted orbit they tried to effect social change

Examples of sweep in a Sentence

Verb He swept the dirt off the driveway. He swept the crumbs from the table. I need to sweep the kitchen. Are you finished sweeping the porch? A storm swept across the plains. Fires swept through the forest. She proudly swept into the room. The limo swept up to the door. He swept the curtains aside. She swept the books off the desk. Noun Mrs. Griswold has been a teacher for so long that the sweep of her influence extends across three generations of the townspeople.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Goldman Sachs's share price plunged by almost a third during the first quarter as the novel coronavirus swept the nation. Jazmin Goodwin, CNN, "Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway sells majority of stake in Goldman Sachs," 16 May 2020 Indeed, as the novel coronavirus has swept around the globe with frightening speed, sickening millions and killing tens of thousands in brutal and baffling ways, the general impulse has been to try anything that might conceivably work. Erika Fry, Fortune, "Will COVID-19 change how Big Pharma does clinical trials?," 15 May 2020 But the reassurance many Peruvians felt has turned into resignation as the virus has swept through the country. BostonGlobe.com, "Latin America’s outbreaks now rival Europe’s," 12 May 2020 In 1666, as bubonic plague swept Europe, residents of the tiny village of Eyam in England’s East Midlands elected to quarantine themselves in hopes of protecting neighboring communities. Xie Feng, WSJ, "China Wants to Help the World Fight Coronavirus," 12 May 2020 Roland, in heart-wrenching detail, described how the management of the Queens Adult Care Center repeatedly assured her that her 82-year-old father, Willie Roland, was safe, even as the virus swept through the facility. Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, "The State Attorney General Is Scrutinizing This Assisted Living Facility Over Its Handling of COVID-19. Some Residents Are Suing It, Too.," 8 May 2020 As the novel coronavirus sweeps through the country, the same dynamics are at play. Sidney Fussell, Wired, "The H1N1 Crisis Predicted Covid-19’s Toll on Black Americans," 6 May 2020 That’s a dramatic illustration of a general truth as the pandemic sweeps through the U.S.—a stark disparity (and over-representation) of African Americans’ among those infected and dying. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 27 Apr. 2020 But even as a pandemic swept through the capital and the death toll climbed, her 240-unit co-op did not yield. Michael E. Miller, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Someone in our building has it’: COVID-19 fuels tensions at apartments and condos," 20 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Republicans are hoping for a sweep Tuesday in special congressional elections being held in California and Wisconsin. Fox News, "Voters in 3 states head to polls amid coronavirus crisis, as GOP hopes for special election wins," 12 May 2020 The Warriors rallied to win Game 1 113-111 and finished the series in a sweep to advance to their third straight Finals series. Jeff Mcdonald, ExpressNews.com, "Top 10 Spurs moments: No. 4 — Kawhi Leonard’s cruel twist against Warriors," 11 May 2020 In a single sweep of hotel lobbies, 400 people without masks were arrested. Nancy Bristow, Time, "Loosening Public-Health Restrictions Too Early Can Cost Lives. Just Look What Happened During the 1918 Flu Pandemic," 1 May 2020 This year, the Hingham senior might just be poised for the clean sweep. Scott Souza, BostonGlobe.com, "Hingham girls ski into States with momentum on their side," 27 Feb. 2020 Oregon State goes for weekend sweep and its fourth consecutive win Sunday when the Beavers take on No. oregonlive, "No. 9 Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball vs. No. 12 Arizona Wildcats: Live updates," 9 Feb. 2020 That was one of three touchdown drives of 75-plus yards, and Thielen scored later on an inside handoff off a jet sweep at the goal line. Dave Campbell, chicagotribune.com, "NFL rushing leader Dalvin Cook leads the Vikings past the Raiders 34-14," 22 Sep. 2019 Davies served up two homers and allowed four runs in four innings as the Arizona Diamondbacks staved off a sweep Sunday at Miller Park, 5-2. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Diamondbacks 5, Brewers 2: Davies struggles again and bats can't overcome early deficit," 25 Aug. 2019 En route to a Triple Crown sweep, American Pharoah rallied in the stretch to beat Firing Line by a length and delivered trainer Bob Baffert’s first Kentucky Derby since 2002. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 2 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sweep.' 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 sweep


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sweep


Middle English swepen; akin to Old English swāpan to sweep, Old High German sweifen to wander

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Time Traveler for sweep

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sweep

Last Updated

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sweep.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sweep. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for sweep


How to pronounce sweep (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sweep

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to remove (something, such as dust or dirt) from a surface with a broom or brush or with a quick movement of your hand, fingers, etc.
: to remove dust, dirt, etc., from (something) with a broom or brush
: to move or pass quickly, forcefully, or smoothly



English Language Learners Definition of sweep (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of cleaning an area with a broom or brush
: a long, smooth movement often in a wide curve
: a large area of land often forming a wide curve


\ ˈswēp How to pronounce sweep (audio) \
swept\ ˈswept \; sweeping

Kids Definition of sweep

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to remove with a broom or brush Please sweep up the dirt.
2 : to clean by removing loose dirt or small trash with a broom or brush I need to sweep the floor.
3 : to move over or across swiftly often with force or destruction Fire swept the village.
4 : to move or gather as if with a broom or brush I swept the money from the table.
5 : to move the eyes or an instrument through a wide curve They swept the hill for some sign of the enemy.
6 : to touch a surface of quickly The musician's fingers swept the piano keys.
7 : to drive along with steady force Debris was swept away by the tide.
8 : to become suddenly very popular throughout It's a show that is sweeping the nation.
9 : to achieve a complete or easy victory

Other Words from sweep

sweeper noun



Kids Definition of sweep (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a curving movement, course, or line I brushed it away with a sweep of my hand.
2 : an act or instance of cleaning with a broom or brush
3 : a wide stretch or curve of land
4 : something that sweeps or works with a sweeping motion
5 : a complete or easy victory
6 : range entry 1 sense 2, scope The island was outside the sweep of our vision.

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More from Merriam-Webster on sweep

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sweep

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sweep

Spanish Central: Translation of sweep

Nglish: Translation of sweep for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sweep for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sweep

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