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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for swell

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Overall, seasonal shopping from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 was up 3.4% over last year, with online sales swelling 18.8%, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending trends. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "Americans bought more stuff online this holiday season, e-commerce sales jumped 18%," 27 Dec. 2019 The new minority caucus members took their seats with the members of SDEC in attendance, swelling their ranks considerably. Mike Cason | Mcason@al.com, al, "Alabama Democrats electing new chair today," 2 Nov. 2019 The concentration of sodium in his blood was dangerously low, putting him at risk for serious complications, including brain swelling that can lead to coma or death. The Washington Post, oregonlive, "Michigan man’s mystery ailment amazes, perplexes doctors," 22 Sep. 2019 In the ’60s and ’70s, as the Hong Kong population swelled with new arrivals escaping from mainland China’s political convulsions, the whole public sector was under heavy criticism for its fondness for bribes. Ilaria Maria Sala, Quartz, "Hong Kong is having flashbacks to the bad old days of police corruption and mafia ties," 1 Sep. 2019 Still, Whillock maintains there’s been at least some height gain since both arrived in Evanston in 2016, the linebacker’s literal stature swelling with his prominence at Northwestern. Joan Niesen, SI.com, "Already a Star for Northwestern, Paddy Fisher Is Just Getting Started," 30 Aug. 2019 The boy was brought to the hospital with swelling in his jaw, according to a statement from the Saveetha Dental College and Hospital. Amy Gunia, Time, "7-Year-Old Boy Has 526 Teeth Removed From His Mouth," 2 Aug. 2019 The 16-month-old was severely injured and is in critical condition, with swelling and bleeding to his brain, according to a statement released by his mother on GoFundMe. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al.com, "Toddler fighting for his life after sexual torture; Shelby County man jailed," 24 July 2019 The populations of many of these towns swell during the holidays with travelers looking for a break at the beach. New York Times, "‘Nowhere Else to Go’: Some Defy Warnings to Flee Australian Fires," 3 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun To counteract this and keep your rig as still as possible, move your rod tip up and down in rhythm with the swells, and pay out or take in line as needed to stay tight. Joe Cermele, Outdoor Life, "Catch Tautog (aka Blackfish) on the Coldest Days of Winter," 15 Jan. 2020 Venice’s mayor said the total damage of that swell is set to be around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), with houses, businesses and historic monuments severely hit. Washington Post, "Venice faces new exceptional flooding, but below peak," 23 Dec. 2019 Just a day after a major Nor’Easter dumped a foot of snow across New England, the post-storm swell at Jenness State Beach had attracted no fewer than twenty surfers. Todd Plummer, Condé Nast Traveler, "In New Hampshire, Winter Surfing Is the New Skiing," 12 Dec. 2019 Marine forecast The weather service says that waves will be in the 2-foot to 4-foot range along the county’s coastline Sunday as the region feels a combination of swells from the west and south-southwest. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Back-to-back Santa Anas and high heat raise wildfire risk in San Diego County," 20 Oct. 2019 This week’s forecast predicts average waves in the 2- to 4-foot range, with the possibility of bigger swells at the end of the competition Saturday and Sunday, according to surfline.com. Jack Harriswriter, Los Angeles Times, "Spotlight back on Surf City for 2019 U.S. Open of Surfing," 31 July 2019 The storefront church in a Mount Healthy strip mall is awash in waves of organ swells. Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati.com, "4 addresses in 4 months: This is what poverty looks like for this Cincinnati family," 10 July 2019 But the overloaded skiff took on water fast — and capsized with the roll of a sudden swell. New York Times, "She Was Duped and Shipped to a Brothel at 16. Then the Boat Sank.," 10 July 2019 High tides on Friday and 25-30 foot swells on Saturday will make the beach dangerous most of the weekend. oregonlive, "Portland Friday weather: High wind advisory, rain for valleys; snow hits the mountains," 10 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Anyone who saw him play regularly knows that sometimes the eye test is a swell way to judge a guy. John Shea, SFChronicle.com, "Former Giants Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel deserve more Hall of Fame love," 31 Dec. 2019 The flood of positive feedback is perhaps somewhat unexpected just given that Melara’s audience is a tough one: stressed, worried, in actual pain, maybe disoriented and probably far from an overall swell mood. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "This hospital worker used to think his singing was a 'burden.' Now he uses his voice to calm patients.," 27 Dec. 2019 Those numbers look swell against a Texans defense that has allowed 13 completions of better than 20 yards over the past two games and is also the fourth-most fantasy friendly defense to quarterbacks. Brandon C. Williams, The Denver Post, "Fantasy football Week 15 players to start and sit: Phillip Lindsay, Jameis Winston," 11 Dec. 2019 The third floor of the massive new Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., resting on a swell chunk of real estate at Sawyer Yards, boasts what may be the city’s grandest perspective of the downtown Houston skyline. Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, "Buffalo Bayou's brew with a view in Sawyer Yards," 9 Dec. 2019 Baines was a good player and a swell guy, but not considered Hall-worthy outside of the 312 area code. BostonGlobe.com, "almost," 11 Nov. 2019 Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray may be swell guys and savvy mentors for Mitch Trubisky, but their limitations on the field are glaring. Brad Biggs, chicagotribune.com, "Bears Q&A: Is there a problem with the backup quarterbacks? How many touches will Cordarrelle Patterson get? Plus more kicker questions.," 21 Aug. 2019 Federal investigators say a surviving passenger of a deadly floatplane crash in Alaska reported that the aircraft nosed over abruptly after hitting a swell or wave during takeoff, causing the cabin to quickly fill with water. baltimoresun.com, "Report: Floatplane in Alaska crash that killed Annapolis businessman hit swell or wave," 1 Aug. 2019 There is a wider morphing process (literally) that takes place: hips expand, feet swell, breasts blow up and the entire shape of one’s physique alters. Anna Ben Yehuda Rahmanan, SELF, "I'm Pregnant And Want to Wear Skintight Clothes and Nothing Else," 20 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about swell

Time Traveler for swell

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for swell

Last Updated

26 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Swell.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swell. Accessed 27 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for swell


How to pronounce swell (audio)

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



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



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

US, informal + old-fashioned : very good


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

Medical Definition of swell

: to become distended or puffed up her ankle swelled

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on swell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for swell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with swell

Spanish Central: Translation of swell

Nglish: Translation of swell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of swell for Arabic Speakers

Comments on swell

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


one that suddenly gains wealth or power

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!