\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The closure comes as hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate as wildfires continue to sweep the West Coast from California up to Washington. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, "Yosemite National Park Closes Due to Smoke Conditions From Ongoing Wildfires," 18 Sep. 2020 As social justice protests sweep across the country, advocacy groups are asking for the changes to move beyond offensive names. Jen Fifield, The Arizona Republic, "Squaw Peak Drive and Robert E. Lee Street in Phoenix will be renamed, council votes unanimously," 18 Sep. 2020 The gap will only widen as tens of millions of antigen tests sweep the country. Kaiser Health News, oregonlive, "Lack of antigen test reporting leaves country ‘blind to the pandemic’," 17 Sep. 2020 Ramaphosa, who took office in February 2018, undertook to sweep clean following his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s rocky nine-year rule that saw billions of rand looted from government coffers. Michael Cohen, Bloomberg.com, "South African Plane Scandal Stymies Ramaphosa’s War on Graft," 11 Sep. 2020 Most of the global cruise industry remains on pause as coronavirus continues to sweep the world, but some cruise lines have begun to resume operations in international waters. David Oliver, USA TODAY, "At least 45 people from Hurtigruten cruise test positive for COVID-19; Paul Gauguin ship disembarks," 5 Aug. 2020 About 30% of the state’s total virus infections during the four-month-old pandemic have been recorded in the last three weeks as the highly infections virus continues to sweep parts of Ohio. Randy Ludlow, The Enquirer, "Ohio records 1,525 new coronavirus cases Friday – largest number reported in one day," 10 July 2020 Temps and dewpoints will be a bit on the sticky side through the early afternoon, but a cold front will sweep through, which will allow temps and humidity values to quickly fall late in the day. Paul Douglas, Star Tribune, "Warm Sunday, Followed By Record Cold Highs Tuesday & Wednesday," 5 Sep. 2020 Coleman wants the Legislature to act now while racial injustice is at the forefront of public awareness as protests for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and now Jacob Blake sweep the nation. Alex Briseno, Dallas News, "Sweeping police reform efforts continue in Texas as racial tensions rise," 4 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But only two players had pulled off the sweep, until now. Tim Reynolds, Houston Chronicle, "Source: Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo wins 2nd straight NBA MVP award," 18 Sep. 2020 The sweep increased their lead over the second-place Yankees to 3 1/2 games. David Ginsburg, Star Tribune, "Rays earn AL playoff spot with doubleheader sweep of Orioles," 18 Sep. 2020 The Bombers hit six home runs to beat the Blue Jays 10-7 on Thursday and complete the sweep of the crucial three-game series at Yankees Stadium. Kristie Ackert, courant.com, "Yankees rack up homer records in eruption vs. Blue Jays: 5 in inning, 19 in series," 17 Sep. 2020 San Francisco Public Press first reported the pre-event sweep. Roland Li, SFChronicle.com, "TechCrunch cuts ties with SF event manager after homeless sweep outside Disrupt conference," 17 Sep. 2020 The Victory Vision 800 showbike of 2006 was more of an urban scooter, propelled by an 800cc snowmobile Twin running through a CVT, but the Vision Tour’s direction was already apparent in the boomerang cab-forward sweep of the thing. John Burns/cycle World, Popular Science, "22 of the weirdest concept motorcycles ever made," 10 Sep. 2020 Indeed, forward Andre Iguodala noted if the Bucks resume with the four-guard approach that won Sunday’s Game 4, then the Heat have to revert to what worked in the opening-round 4-0 sweep of the Indiana Pacers. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Heat preparing for dual realities in Game 5 vs. Bucks as Antetokounmpo watch continues," 7 Sep. 2020 There are new hand-sanitizing stations at the front of the bus, plastic face shields for drivers and bottles of sanitizer to be sprayed on every touchable surface at the end of the shift, a major change from the quick sweep of the past. Valerie Bauerlein, WSJ, "Think Reopening Schools Is Tough, What About School Buses?," 7 Sep. 2020 In the four-game sweep of Indiana, Adebayo posted 15.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, with 5.3 assists and 1.3 blocks to boot. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Seven things to know about the Bucks' next opponent: the Miami Heat," 30 Aug. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sweep

Time Traveler for sweep

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for sweep

Last Updated

22 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!