\ ˈswel How to pronounce swell (audio) \
swelled; swelled or swollen\ ˈswō-​lən How to pronounce swell (audio) \; 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



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



Definition of swell (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : stylish
b : socially prominent
2 : excellent used as a generalized term of enthusiasm

Synonyms & Antonyms for swell

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for swell


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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The difference appears to be extra payment for options and other equity instruments held by management that would swell the final price. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 10 May 2022 Trying them on at the end of the day is also key, since most people's feet swell a touch throughout. Lauren Breedlove, Travel + Leisure, 6 May 2022 But the two Bay Area metro areas are in rapidly growing company as the ranks of unaffordable markets swell worldwide during the pandemic, putting homeownership increasingly out of reach for middle-income buyers, researchers found. Kellie Hwang, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 2022 Polish cities, which are decked out in blue and yellow Ukrainian flags in a sign of solidarity, have seen their populations swell. Lydia Tomkiw, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 May 2022 The instrumental is vibrant and light, as shakers swell beneath the R&B vocalist’s layered harmonies. Neena Rouhani, Billboard, 25 Apr. 2022 Her riotously colorful forms swell and droop and merge in unpredictable and often joyous abandon, with occasional nods to Philip Guston, Francis Bacon, and a host of others. Dodie Kazanjian, Vogue, 12 Mar. 2022 The city has seen its population swell with elderly people, mothers and children trying to escape the war. Arkansas Online, 19 Apr. 2022 Burke seemed to swell with pride at her botanical perceptiveness. Jacob Roberts, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The latest swell of COVID cases in the Bay Area can tell us a lot about what living with coronavirus will be like in the future. Gwendolyn Wu, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 May 2022 But as voter concern that the war would engulf the entire region began to fade, so did the ground swell of support that had pushed Macron’s popularity to 51%. Fortune, 10 Apr. 2022 But since then, a swell of other armed groups have swept into the vacuum and continued to fight. New York Times, 18 Jan. 2022 The swell of social media support had a direct impact on Britney’s life and livelihood. Blake Morgan, Forbes, 7 Sep. 2021 But Warren’s statement reflects a swell of Democratic criticism against McCarthy. Chicago Tribune, 24 Apr. 2022 Once prices started falling, Maryland service stations saw a swell of customer appreciation, said Kirk McCauley, director of government affairs for the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2022 California is not yet experiencing a swell of cases similar to what has been reported across parts of the Northeastern U.S., where large outbreaks have infected high-profile policymakers and Broadway stars. Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Apr. 2022 Orlando International Airport ranked among the world’s busiest for passengers in 2021, riding a swell of tourism and leisure travel to jump to seventh place, having ranked 27th in 2020 and 31st in 2019. Kevin Spear, orlandosentinel.com, 11 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective And many have seen their portfolios swell in recent years as the stock market has boomed. Tami Luhby And Katie Lobosco, CNN, 28 Mar. 2022 Having completed his 21st year, he is released from his apprenticeship to a band of swell pirates. The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Apr. 2022 Everybody was in a swell mood in the Red Sox clubhouse at JetBlue Park on Tuesday morning. Dan Shaughnessy, BostonGlobe.com, 15 Mar. 2022 At this beach break, the black sand gives the water a dramatic green hue, but what's even eerier is that the right swell conditions can occasionally produce 20-foot barrels. Jamie Ditaranto, Travel + Leisure, 13 Mar. 2022 In flashbacks, Thomas (Linus Roache) is a philanthropist, a master builder, a swell dad, and a doctor. Darren Franich, EW.com, 17 Feb. 2022 The wave’s power, the shallow water over the reef, the steep takeoff, the way the peak shifts with the tide and swell direction, all add up to the danger and difficulty of surfing Pipeline. Outside Online, 2 Feb. 2022 An easy swell rolls beneath the Delta Teresa, a tugboat idling at the entrance to Long Beach Harbor. Los Angeles Times, 23 Dec. 2021 Her life was always fine, swell, just couldn’t be better, thanks. Jennifer Senior, The Atlantic, 9 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of swell


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


1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for swell


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

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

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Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Swell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swell. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for swell


\ ˈswel How to pronounce swell (audio) \
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.



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



Kids Definition of swell (Entry 3 of 3)

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


intransitive verb
\ ˈswel How to pronounce swell (audio) \
swelled; swelled or swollen\ ˈswō-​lən How to pronounce swell (audio) \; swelling

Medical Definition of swell

: to become distended or puffed up her ankle swelled

More from Merriam-Webster on swell

Nglish: Translation of swell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of swell for Arabic Speakers


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