swell

verb
\ˈswel \
swelled; swelled or swollen\ ˈswō-​lən \; swelling

Definition of swell 

(Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : to expand (as in size, volume, or numbers) gradually beyond a normal or original limit the population swelled

b : to become distended or puffed up her ankle is badly swollen

c : to form a bulge or rounded elevation

2a : to become filled with pride and arrogance

b : to behave or speak in a pompous, blustering, or self-important manner

c : to play the swell

3 : to become distended with emotion

transitive verb

1 : to affect with a powerful or expansive emotion

2 : to increase the size, number, or intensity of swell the applicant pool

swell

noun

Definition of swell (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a long often massive and crestless wave or succession of waves often continuing beyond or after its cause (such as a gale)

2a : the condition of being protuberant

b : a rounded elevation

3a : the act or process of swelling

b(1) : a gradual increase and decrease of the loudness of a musical sound also : a sign indicating a swell

(2) : a device used in an organ for governing loudness

4a archaic : an impressive, pompous, or fashionable air or display

b : a person dressed in the height of fashion

c : a person of high social position or outstanding competence

swell

adjective

Definition of swell (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : stylish

b : socially prominent

2 : excellent used as a generalized term of enthusiasm

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Choose the Right Synonym for swell

Verb

expand, amplify, swell, distend, inflate, dilate mean to increase in size or volume. expand may apply regardless of the manner of increase (such as growth, unfolding, addition of parts). a business that expands every year amplify implies the extension or enlargement of something inadequate. amplify the statement with details swell implies gradual expansion beyond a thing's original or normal limits. the bureaucracy swelled to unmanageable proportions distend implies outward extension caused by pressure from within. a distended abdomen inflate implies expanding by introduction of air or something insubstantial and suggests a vulnerability to sudden collapse. an inflated ego dilate applies especially to expansion of circumference. dilated pupils

Examples of swell in a Sentence

Verb

Her broken ankle swelled badly. Heavy rains swelled the river. The population has swelled in recent years. The economy is swelling at an annual rate of five percent. Immigrants have swelled the population.

Noun

The storm has brought high winds and heavy swells along the coast. the swell of a pregnant woman's belly a swell in the population the swell of the music

Adjective

That was a swell party. what a swell time we had at the country club dance
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the first three to 30 days post-infection, Lyme disease can cause a rash (this may expand and take the shape of a bull’s-eye as time passes), headache, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC. Kate Sheridan, SELF, "Here’s Exactly What to Do if a Tick Bites You," 14 July 2018 Mount Trashmore has been swelling for decades in Broward County, rising from a 10-foot pile of debris to a behemoth that’s more than 200 feet tall. Anne Geggis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Mount Trashmore, the landfill that's over 20 stories, will grow bigger and taller," 13 July 2018 China’s trade surplus with the U.S. surged to a record monthly high in June, with exports swelling just as trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies escalated. WSJ, "China’s Trade Surplus With U.S. Hits Record as Fight Intensifies," 13 July 2018 Two factors that have contributed to swelling the village’s debt are costs related to tax increment district developments and paying for the unfunded pension liability obligation, said West Milwaukee Village President John Stalewski. Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Seeing red: Which Milwaukee suburbs are closest to their debt limits?," 11 July 2018 In addition, the new moon will generate higher-than-normal tides Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the weather service says, and swells associated with Chris could exacerbate any tidal flooding and result in minor beach erosion. Anthony R. Wood, Philly.com, "Tropical Storm Chris could become hurricane and affect Jersey beaches; Beryl making comeback?," 10 July 2018 This is supposed to be a nice moment, and Olivia Wilde cries happy tears and the music swells but what the actual what?! Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Speaking of ‘Life Itself,’ Here Are 5 Bad Movies With Great Casts," 10 July 2018 Another has a swelling on an elbow, NJ.com reported. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Man contracts flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing, could lose arms, legs," 10 July 2018 Local infections also present with redness and swelling but usually develop a day or two after the bite. Dipesh Navsaria, Houston Chronicle, "What parents should know to prevent — and deal with — bug bites," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

These swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, forecasters warn. Susannah Bryan, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Hurricane to hit Canada? Tropical Storm Chris aims for Atlantic provinces," 9 July 2018 As always, a special shoutout to our engineer Brett Fuchs for making it all sound swell. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "Weed Tourism: How Legal Marijuana Is Changing Travel—Travelogue Podcast," 20 Apr. 2018 The surf culture of Virginia Beach wasn't built on big swells. Danielle Page, USA TODAY, "How Virginia Beach became a surf destination," 2 Apr. 2018 Heard from Grant Washburn , one of the few surfers willing to take on Mavericks during Thursday’s huge swell. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, "Longoria a symbol of Giants’ optimism," 19 Jan. 2018 The forecasts project improved winds on Tuesday in addition to a more consistent swell. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, "Mavericks big wave surf contest coming soon?," 12 Jan. 2018 Every few seconds a wave of electrical activity travels through the brain, like a large swell moving through the ocean. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, "Superslow Brain Waves May Play a Critical Role in Consciousness," 23 May 2018 That was the ethereal, beguiling question bubbling over the synth swell of Zooropa’s opening and title track. Jonathan Bradley, Billboard, "Dream Up the World You're Gonna Live In: How U2's 'Zooropa' Got the Future Wrong, 25 Years Later," 5 July 2018 With the favorable map, Republicans saw their majority in the House swell. Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, "Court strikes down Virginia House districts as racial gerrymandering," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

So, imagine my surprise to see on your Instagram account what a swell time you and your family had being entertained by the pros from Doha. Charles P. Pierce, SI.com, "Why Tom Brady Has No Business Promoting Qatar," 25 Apr. 2018 Sunday was a swell day at AT&T Park, the sun shining while the Giants beat the Rockies. Leah Garchik, SFChronicle.com, "Fine Arts Museums brand gets ‘refreshed’," 10 July 2018 Recalling the movie character encountered 20 years ago made for mutual swooning, swell moments of female bonding. Leah Garchik, SFChronicle.com, "From Russia and Germany, the bleak end of everything," 19 June 2018 In 2009, Florida International University's Board of Trustees bid farewell to its departing president of 23 years with a swell parting gift. Colleen Wright, miamiherald, "FIU board, eyeing opportunity and punishment, considers renaming Maidique campus," 18 June 2018 Unlike Ballast Point, Saint Archer had a swell ’17, with sales up 62 percent to 43,500 barrels. Peter Rowe, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Is the IPA — in all of its dark, white, aged, fresh, sour, sweet versions — here to stay?," 14 June 2018 The plan, which is also a response to a tougher competitive environment, is meant to juice brokers’ assets, swell bank deposits and funnel more clients into retail-bank products such as mortgages and credit cards. Lisa Beilfuss, WSJ, "Merrill Lynch Brokers Face Pay Clawbacks," 24 May 2018 Due to weather and temperature changes corrosion occurs between the nuts and the covers making them swell and separate as corrosion builds up between the two pieces. Bob Weber, chicagotribune.com, "Stick shifts and lug nuts offered up as theft deterrents," 13 May 2018 In this remote body of water, huge swell waves build and then ripple across the planet. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Record-Breaking Wave Reaches Height of 78.1 Feet," 14 May 2018

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

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Noun

1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for swell

Verb

Middle English, from Old English swellan; akin to Old High German swellan to swell

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Learn More about swell

Dictionary Entries near swell

sweety

sweir

Swekoman

swell

swellbelly

swell box

swell-butted

Statistics for swell

Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for swell

The first known use of swell was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for swell

swell

verb

English Language Learners Definition of swell

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: to become larger than normal

: to make (something, such as a river) larger or more full than normal

: to increase in size or number

swell

noun

English Language Learners Definition of swell (Entry 2 of 3)

: an upward and downward movement of the water in the sea

: the curved or rounded shape of something

: an increase in size or number

swell

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of swell (Entry 3 of 3)

: very good

swell

verb
\ˈswel \
swelled; swelled or swollen\ ˈswō-​lən \; swelling

Kids Definition of swell

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : to enlarge in an abnormal way usually by pressure from within or by growth Her sprained ankle is swelling up.

2 : to grow or make bigger (as in size or value) The town's population swelled.

3 : to stretch upward or outward : bulge The sails swelled in the breeze.

4 : to fill or become filled with emotion His heart swelled with pride.

swell

noun

Kids Definition of swell (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a gradual increase in size, value, or volume a swell of laughter

2 : a long rolling wave or series of waves in the open sea

3 : the condition of bulging the swell of big muscles

4 : a rounded elevation

swell

adjective

Kids Definition of swell (Entry 3 of 3)

: excellent, first-rate We had a swell time.

\ˈswel \
swelled; swelled or swollen\ ˈswō-​lən \; swelling

Medical Definition of swell 

: to become distended or puffed up her ankle swelled

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