\ˈswēp \
swept\ˈswept \; 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 away everything 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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Synonyms & Antonyms for sweep

Synonyms: Verb

bowl, breeze, brush, coast, cruise, drift, flow, glide, roll, sail, skim, slide, slip, stream, whisk

Synonyms: Noun

amplitude, breadth, compass, confines, dimension(s), extent, range, reach, realm, scope, width

Antonyms: Verb

flounder, struggle

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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


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.


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

The Congress is currently in the opposition, led by Rajiv's son Rahul Gandhi, following its defeat in the 2014 elections that were swept by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Nyay Bhushan, The Hollywood Reporter, "Netflix Series Faces Legal Case Over Portrayal of Ex-India Prime Minister," 13 July 2018 Beneath all of them was a solitary, helpless photographer, swept off his feet by Croatia’s celebrations. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Croatia Digs Deeper, Burying England’s World Cup Dreams," 12 July 2018 Among those who have been swept away by Lake Michigan’s waters after lifeguard hours, Markius Woods drowned in July 2016, after ambulances were sent about 8 p.m to 31st Street Beach. Tessa Weinberg, chicagotribune.com, "A nighttime drowning in Lake Michigan - and no city lifeguards on duty prompts calls for change," 12 July 2018 But when James deviated from the script by pairing shorts with his jacket in the Finals, Cleveland was swept by Golden State. Jamie Lisanti, SI.com, "Fashionable 50," 10 July 2018 An Illinois family is mourning the loss of their 13-year-old daughter who drowned after being swept away by a rip current in Lake Michigan on Friday, PEOPLE confirms. Char Adams, PEOPLE.com, "13-Year-Old Who Drowned After Being Swept Away in Lake Michigan Was 'Loving' Daughter, Family Says," 9 July 2018 The victory came a day after the Nationals called a players-only meeting Wednesday after Washington was swept by Boston and slipped under .500 for the first time since May 2. baltimoresun.com, "Turner's eight RBIs help Nationals rally from nine-run deficit to beat Marlins, 14-12," 6 July 2018 The victory came a day after the Nationals called a players-only meeting Wednesday after Washington was swept by Boston and slipped under .500 for the first time since May 2. Sun-Sentinel.com, "Marlins melt down as Nats rally from down 9-0, win 14-12 behind Trea Turner's 8 RBI," 5 July 2018 So, when the extended dry spell hit, soil became loose and was swept away by intense dust storms that blotted out the sun. Emily Hopkins, Cincinnati.com, "Your produce is less healthy than it was 70 years ago. These farmers might change that," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

My mother, backlit in the doorway, gestured with a sweep of the hand to present the inaugural view. Liz Arnold, Longreads, "Making Peace with the Site of a Suicide," 11 July 2018 Reyna says officers are doing a second sweep of the building. Fox News, "Army Reserve base evacuated after possible gunfire reported," 10 July 2018 The win gave the Sparks their first win in four games and helped them avoid a regular season sweep by the Storm. Alexa Philippou, The Seattle Times, "Storm’s win streak ends at five with a 77-75 defeat to the Los Angeles Sparks," 10 July 2018 Contreras has shown no signs of wearing down, even after catching the final 23 innings of the Cubs’ three-game sweep of the Twins on June 29-July 1 in unbearable heat at Wrigley Field. Mark Gonzales, chicagotribune.com, "Greater commitment to hydration has helped Willson Contreras' durability," 9 July 2018 He was named the MVP of the Spurs’ 2007 Finals sweep of LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Parker stunner: Iconic Spurs point guard headed to Charlotte," 6 July 2018 Editor's note: Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the Detroit Red Wings' second straight Stanley Cup championship, which came by way of a four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals. Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings flashback: Mitch Albom on 1998 Stanley Cup victory," 16 June 2018 The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-102 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night to move within a victory of a sweep. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "Down 3-0 in NBA Finals, LeBron James reveals plenty in candid session with media," 7 June 2018 Three other veteran women’s rights activists were briefly detained at the onset of the sweep. Washington Post, "First Saudi women receive driving licenses amid crackdown," 5 June 2018

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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Statistics for sweep

Last Updated

23 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sweep

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

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More Definitions for sweep



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 \
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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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).


not any or not one

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