\ 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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Washburn has surfed and documented every significant Mavericks swell since January 1992, when the surfing world became aware of the once-secret spot off the coast of Half Moon Bay. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "‘Best day ever at Mavericks’: Kai Lenny, top big-wave surfers savor all-time swell," 9 Dec. 2020 The ferocious crackdown with rubber bullets, stun grenades and clubs helped swell the protesters' ranks and caused international outrage. Yuras Karmanau, Star Tribune, "Partner of Belarus' dead protester demands independent probe," 17 Aug. 2020 The Akutan plant is a processing hub for Bering Sea harvests of pollock, crab and cod, with a workforce of 700 employees that will swell in the weeks ahead to 1,400 people. Hal Bernton, Anchorage Daily News, "Coronavirus infections detected at Alaska seafood plant owned by Seattle-based Trident," 19 Jan. 2021 The day began with brief skirmishing; students threw rocks at the Guard and the Guard fired tear gas at the students, whose numbers would swell from the hundreds to the thousands. New York Times, "Alan Canfora, Who Carried Wounds From Kent State, Dies at 71," 16 Jan. 2021 Sibert had logged thousands of hours there, a sometimes overwhelming station where the hunks of meat and bone came so fast her hands would swell. USA Today, "How the South and Southwest became the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic," 10 Dec. 2020 Some other economists believe the nation would dodge another downturn even without more assistance, which would further swell the staggering $26 trillion national debt. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "U.S. could slip into double-dip recession if Congress doesn't pass new stimulus, some economists say," 20 Sep. 2020 The number of Arizonans without health insurance grew by nearly 64,000 people in 2019, well before the COVID-19 pandemic that may swell those ranks, new Census data says. Stephanie Innes, The Arizona Republic, "Number of uninsured Arizonans grew by 60K last year, report says. And then the pandemic hit.," 17 Sep. 2020 The importance of attractive storage will swell, as people seek to cleverly conceal more stuff. Marni Jameson | Contributing Writer, NOLA.com, "8 ways the pandemic is changing how we live in our homes, now and into the future," 12 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Homebuilders who are scrambling to meet a swell of buyer demand are hitting a wall. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "Soaring lumber costs hammer D-FW homebuilders," 12 Feb. 2021 As a new, giant swell began to take shape that morning, paddle-surfing seemed a catastrophic proposition. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "In Mavericks’ dream surf season, 51-year-old Peter Mel making big-wave history," 16 Jan. 2021 When a swell is traveling through the ocean, the waves are all more or less the same size. Sally Warner, The Conversation, "What makes the world’s biggest surfable waves?," 3 Dec. 2020 Despite his near death experience, González was back in the water in a little over a week, chasing mega swell in northwest Ireland. Kade Krichko, Outside Online, "Training for Big-Wave Surfing? It's All in Your Head.," 22 Nov. 2020 As NOLA Public Schools contends with the largest swell in coronavirus cases to date, the district and its charter schools are bracing for another looming crisis: the financial fallout from the relentless COVID-19 pandemic. Della Hasselle | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Charter leaders, Orleans school district bracing for grim budget forecasts due to coronavirus," 16 Jan. 2021 Jimmie Johnson, one of the best to ever climb into a race car, made pride swell in El Cajon as the sport celebrated his singular career in his final full-time season with NASCAR. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Amid the pain, 2020 reminded us that sports matter," 27 Dec. 2020 Writhing on the living room floor in the swell of a fierce contraction, Martha rolls over and bites Sean’s calf. Hillary Kelly, Vulture, "Pieces of a Woman Hinges on One Heaving, Tremendous Home-Birth Scene," 12 Jan. 2021 The organizing effort comes amid a rising swell of workplace unrest at Google and other companies. Chase Difeliciantonio, SFChronicle.com, "Tech unions in Silicon Valley have been rare. Here’s why that’s changing," 10 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The seas were without swell, and the sky was moonless. New York Times, "Risking Everything to Come to America on the Open Ocean," 28 Jan. 2021 For the past decade, Washington has welcomed some 931,700 people and seen its housing deficit swell to 225,000 homes in 2019. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, "Landlords, tenants debate who will pay the price of Washington state's eviction moratorium," 25 Jan. 2021 In early January, Southern California was hit with its usual wintertime swell, making every surfer in the region positively giddy. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, "Watch These Sea Lions Absolutely Tear Up the Waves in Southern California," 15 Jan. 2021 The dangerous swell conditions will last until 10 p.m. Wednesday, meteorologists said. Nora Mishanec, SFChronicle.com, "Weather service warns of dangerous sneaker waves on Bay Area coast," 29 Dec. 2020 The swell direction on Tuesday was about 289 degrees out of the northwest. Los Angeles Times, "Mavericks explodes with ‘best waves in 10 years,’ pioneering waterman says," 11 Dec. 2020 Barrick, the world’s second-largest gold producer, has seen its cash position swell amid surging gold prices as investors flocked to haven assets earlier this year. Michael Bellusci, Bloomberg.com, "Shopify, Barrick Join Exclusive Canada Club With Big Cash Hoards," 19 Nov. 2020 What made Mavericks special, everyone agreed, was the combination of ideal weather, favorable wind, swell direction, wave faces of 50-plus feet, and the level of talent in the water. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "‘Best day ever at Mavericks’: Kai Lenny, top big-wave surfers savor all-time swell," 9 Dec. 2020 The order goes into effect Monday and will run through Dec. 20 as cases of COVID-19 swell to disturbing levels. Fox News, "Los Angeles County issues safer-at-home order that starts Nov. 30," 28 Nov. 2020

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


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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Time Traveler for swell

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for swell

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Swell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swell. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for swell



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 swell (audio) \; swelling

Medical Definition of swell

: to become distended or puffed up her ankle swelled

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More from Merriam-Webster on swell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for swell

Nglish: Translation of swell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of swell for Arabic Speakers

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