\ 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 Wilson is among the many Californians unexpectedly swept up in an effort to improve conditions for workers at gig-economy companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "A New Law for Gig Workers Reaches Beyond Ride-Hail Drivers," 10 Jan. 2020 Last spring, more than a dozen federal agents spent six hours searching the law firm of a prominent Maryland attorney, sweeping up thousands of emails, files and other documents in a money laundering and obstruction investigation. Washington Post, "Investigative tool used in law firm searches at risk, federal prosecutors fear," 10 Jan. 2020 If you do get swept up into the ocean, don't try to fight the current. Jamie Hale | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Sneaker wave threat heightened for New Year’s Eve on the Oregon coast," 30 Dec. 2019 In April 2021, the team plans to launch a sounding rocket carrying the Beam Plasma Interactions Experiment, a miniature accelerator that would create a beam of electrons, which in turn would generate VLF waves capable of sweeping up particles. Richard Stone, Science | AAAS, "U.S. tests ways to sweep space clean of radiation after nuclear attack," 26 Dec. 2019 Pyroaerobiology, a new field of science with a badass name, seeks to understand how colonies of bacteria, fungi, archaea, and viruses are swept up in smoke. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "How This Researcher Invented an Entirely New—and Entirely Badass—Field of Science," 20 Dec. 2019 For many health systems, the subject of drug diversion by staff members is taboo and swept under the rug. Lauren Lollini, STAT, "A hospital staffer diverted drugs, which gave me hepatitis C. That happens more often than you think," 20 Dec. 2019 Disc material that did not get swept up into planets formed a belt of asteroids between the inner and outer quartets and a belt of small, icy bodies beyond them. The Economist, "How the planets got their spots," 18 Dec. 2019 In the 10-episode series, Somerhalder plays human Dr. Luther Swann, who becomes swept up in a global disaster when a mysterious disease transforms his best friend, Michael Fayne (Adrian Holmes), into a murderous predator who feeds on other humans. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "Ian Somerhalder's vampire drama V Wars debuts first trailer featuring wife Nikki Reed," 19 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Oregon will try to avoid a weekend sweep in the desert today at No. oregonlive, "No. 2 Oregon Ducks women’s basketball vs. No. 18 Arizona Wildcats: Live score updates, analysis," 12 Jan. 2020 The Spartans have won four in a row in the series, including a three-game sweep last season. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball witnessed quintessential Cassius Winston; so did Michigan," 6 Jan. 2020 Under pressure from the authorities, poor farmers, small traders and idle villagers of working age attend training and indoctrination courses for weeks or months, and are then assigned to stitch clothes, make shoes, sweep streets or fill other jobs. Austin Ramzy, New York Times, "Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of Workers," 30 Dec. 2019 Tax cuts lead to buybacks Republicans’ sweep of the 2016 election facilitated the passage of a massive corporate tax cut. NBC News, "From bankruptcies to stock market highs, this was a decade of turnarounds," 27 Dec. 2019 The Wisconsin volleyball team dominated its national semifinal match against Baylor to reach the NCAA championship match as part of a thrilling run that featured four three-set sweeps before the win over Baylor and loss to Stanford in the final. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "These are the 20 Wisconsin sports moments from 2019 that we'll never forget," 26 Dec. 2019 Back on the trails where each pulled off a gold-medal sweep at last season’s U.S. Junior Championships, Schumacher and Kramer seized Besh Cup victories in the interval-start freestyle races. Anchorage Daily News, "Schumacher, Kramer ski to freestyle wins at chilly Kincaid Park," 23 Dec. 2019 But on social media, enthusiasm for this particular clean sweep was undeniable. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "For the First Time, Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Now Miss Universe Are All Black Women," 9 Dec. 2019 Eli Stove, another sweep candidate who had seven carries on the season, was in and out of the game and at one point had to get an IV, according to the CBS broadcast. Tom Green | Tgreen@al.com, al, "‘Little man runs everybody over’: Behind Shaun Shivers’ decisive touchdown, lasting Iron Bowl image," 3 Dec. 2019

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

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sweep.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sweep. Accessed 23 January 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

Comments on sweep

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


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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