swel·​ter | \ ˈswel-tər How to pronounce swelter (audio) \
sweltered; sweltering\ ˈswel-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce sweltering (audio) \

Definition of swelter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to suffer, sweat, or be faint from heat
2 : to become exceedingly hot in summer, the place swelters

transitive verb

1 : to oppress with heat
2 archaic : exude sweltered venom— William Shakespeare



Definition of swelter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a state of oppressive heat
2 : welter
3 : an excited or overwrought state of mind : sweat in a swelter

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Examples of swelter in a Sentence


We were sweltering in the summer heat.


the set designer spent the entire week before opening night in a swelter

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Those cool houses in the Sunset, built to catch the ocean breeze, start to swelter when the breeze dies away. Carl Nolte, SFChronicle.com, "A hot day in San Francisco? That’s earthquake weather," 15 June 2019 Forecasters say southern Arizona will swelter through temperatures from 112 to 119 degrees through Wednesday. Anita Snow, The Seattle Times, "US Southwest sizzles as temperatures near 120 degrees," 23 July 2018 As Britain and Ireland have sweltered, heat waves have also struck Scandinavia, the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, the Caucasus and southern Russia, and other regions. New York Times, "U.K. ‘Heat Wave’? Irish ‘Drought’? Unfamiliar Words for Unfamiliar Times," 4 July 2018 The area was hit by gusty winds that tossed embers and much of Southern California sweltered as temperatures topped 100 degrees in many areas. Fox News, "The Latest: New wildfires hit California, burning homes," 7 July 2018 The Los Angeles County coroner’s office is investigating the death of a 63-year-old U.S. Postal Service carrier who was found dead in her truck amid sweltering temperatures last week, the department said Monday. Alejandra Reyes-velarde, latimes.com, "Death of postal carrier found in her truck during heat wave in Woodland Hills is under investigation," 10 July 2018 Meanwhile, despite sweltering weather conditions north suburban residents gathered in Highland Park, Glenview, Arlington Heights and Barrington for their own rallies and marches. Steve Sadin, chicagotribune.com, "North suburban residents rally against border separations: 'I’ve never seen this before'," 2 July 2018 To cope with dry desert climate, oryx have a remarkable tolerance for sweltering heat and are able to withstand an internal body temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit, minimizing loss of water through sweat. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "New Artificial Insemination Technique Successfully Breeds Critically Endangered Scimitar-Horned Oryx," 10 July 2018 Many other areas were sweltering in record triple-digit temperatures earlier. CBS News, "Southern California heat wave breaks records," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This is a mysterious region far from the sun itself but swelters outer space with temperatures over one million degrees Fahrenheit. Dean Regas, Cincinnati.com, "Meet the storm in the sky that would engulf Earth if it weren’t 93 million miles away," 13 June 2019 From Gibraltar’s swelter to a frigid Norwegian fjord, the evolutionary biologist takes readers on an adventure in unexpected revelations about this lost lineage of humans. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "The Best Science Books to Read For Summer 2019," 7 May 2019 When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last summer, Richard Santiago and his family toiled in the swelter of a powerless apartment for weeks as mosquitoes swarmed their flooded home. Phillip Valys, sun-sentinel.com, "Warehouse District: How West Palm Beach’s newest nightlife village found suds, spirits and ‘soul’," 6 June 2019 San Diego County continued to swelter, melt and burn Saturday with record-breaking heat for the second day. Pauline Repard, sandiegouniontribune.com, "San Diego County forecast this week: Hot, humid, cloudy," 7 July 2018 Confidence: High Tomorrow night: The midsummer swelter continues overnight. Brian Jackson, Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Sweltering conditions will persist through Independence Day," 1 July 2018 This boundary separates early March-level temperatures from midsummer swelter. Tom Skilling, chicagotribune.com, "Storms threaten area with heavy rain and hail," 11 May 2018 In the absence of El Nino, the swelter of 2017 was unprecedented. Tom Randall, Bloomberg.com, "Earth’s Relentless Warming Sets a Brutal New Record in 2017," 18 Jan. 2018 Only a handful of motor vehicles are allowed on the island; transportation is mainly the domain of donkeys or men pushing wooden carts through the tropical swelter. National Geographic, "As the World Cuts Back on Coal, a Growing Appetite in Africa," 10 May 2017

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1851, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for swelter


Middle English sweltren, frequentative of swelten to die, be overcome by heat, from Old English sweltan to die; akin to Goth swiltan to die

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Dictionary Entries near swelter

swell shark







Statistics for swelter

Last Updated

23 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for swelter

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

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More Definitions for swelter



English Language Learners Definition of swelter

: to be very hot and uncomfortable


swel·​ter | \ ˈswel-tər How to pronounce swelter (audio) \
sweltered; sweltering

Kids Definition of swelter

: to suffer, sweat, or be faint from heat

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More from Merriam-Webster on swelter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with swelter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for swelter

Spanish Central: Translation of swelter

Nglish: Translation of swelter for Spanish Speakers

Comments on swelter

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


showing courage and determination

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