\ ˈswift \

Definition of swift

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1 : moving or capable of moving with great speed a swift runner
2 : occurring suddenly or within a very short time a swift transition
3 : quick to respond : ready



Definition of swift (Entry 2 of 5)

: swiftly swift-flowing



Definition of swift (Entry 3 of 5)

1 : any of several lizards (especially of the genus Sceloporus) that run swiftly
2 : a reel for winding yarn or thread
3 : any of numerous small plainly colored birds (family Apodidae) that are related to the hummingbirds but superficially much resemble swallows


biographical name (1)
\ ˈswift \

Definition of Swift (Entry 4 of 5)

Gustavus Franklin 1839–1903 American meatpacker


biographical name (2)

Definition of Swift (Entry 5 of 5)

Jonathan 1667–1745 English (Irish-born) satirist

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Other Words from swift

Biographical name (2)

Swiftian \ ˈswif-​tē-​ən \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for swift


fast, rapid, swift, fleet, quick, speedy, hasty, expeditious mean moving, proceeding, or acting with celerity. fast and rapid are very close in meaning, but fast applies particularly to the thing that moves fast horses and rapid to the movement itself. rapid current swift suggests great rapidity coupled with ease of movement. returned the ball with one swift stroke fleet adds the implication of lightness and nimbleness. fleet runners quick suggests promptness and the taking of little time. a quick wit speedy implies quickness of successful accomplishment speedy delivery of mail and may also suggest unusual velocity. hasty suggests hurry and precipitousness and often connotes carelessness. a hasty inspection expeditious suggests efficiency together with rapidity of accomplishment. the expeditious handling of an order

Examples of swift in a Sentence


a swift and accurate response the sleekest, swiftest boat ever to have sailed in the regatta


tried to cross the swift-flowing river
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Dark rocks bulked silent and swift past the window, and the wheels clocked away like the cogs of a gigantic clock. Sylvia Plath, WSJ, "Sylvia Plath’s Lost Story, ‘Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom’: An Excerpt," 29 Dec. 2018 After starting the prelude with daringly careful slowness — many conductors today favor a swifter, more natural flow — Mr. Petrenko unleashes waves of spiky, sparkling sound. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Review: A Conductor Sets Munich’s Ashen ‘Parsifal’ Aflame," 1 July 2018 The backlash was swift, with Twitter user Nadeem Ahmed remarking that the billionaire has previously been vocal about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. SI.com, "Lord Sugar Accused of Racism After 'Joke Picture' Tweet About the Senegal Team," 20 June 2018 The pushback to the FCC's about-face has been understandably swift, fierce and surprisingly bipartisan. The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, sacbee, "The fight for net neutrality isn’t just for consumers. It’s a fight for California," 15 June 2018 Despite the situation being technically resolved, needless to say, social media backlash has been swift, with calls for a boycott of Waffle House quickly mounting. Breanna Edwards, The Root, "Are We Done Yet With Waffle House? Viral Video Shows Black Couple Being Arrested for Questioning Juice Charge at Florida Waffle House," 14 June 2018 The government’s reaction was swift, and in the first few days dozens were killed by police and paramilitary forces using live rounds of ammunition. Margarita Herdocia, Time, "Nicaragua Is Heading Down the Same Dark Path as Venezuela," 13 June 2018 Currents near waterfalls can be extremely swift, even in areas farther upstream. Joe Marusak, charlotteobserver, "NC mountain visitors warned of toppling trees, as part of Blue Ridge Parkway reopens," 4 June 2018 The backlash on Twitter was swift, with ASU fans proposing boycotts of the bar. Katherine Fitzgerald, azcentral, "Arizona changes event from bar in Tempe to Scottsdale after pressure from ASU fans," 9 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

On his watch, the Cold War ended, and the nation and its allies achieved a swift and crushing victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War — before a faltering economy largely doomed his reelection prospects. Lois Romano, Washington Post, "Barbara Bush, matriarch of American political dynasty, dies at 92," 17 Apr. 2018 Some consider the halal method of killing animals, which involves a prayer and swift, deep incision of the neck, to be more humane, though some animal welfare groups say animals should be stunned before slaughter. Greg Trotter, chicagotribune.com, "Amid growing interest in halal food, Navy Pier festival to celebrate Muslim lifestyle," 12 Apr. 2018 By using a tire, Brad manages to keep the log firmly in place, making the whole process as swift as slicing into an apple pie. Diana Bruk, Country Living, "This Simple Wood-Chopping Trick Is Absolutely Brilliant," 10 June 2015 As a composer and bassist, Linda May Han Oh is always trying to maintain a swift and multidirectional motion without sacrificing clarity or precision. Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, "Live Jazz: 5 April Standouts, From Andrew Cyrille to Linda May Han Oh," 2 May 2018 Buzz: Dynamic skater and puck carrier who makes a swift first pass. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings options with sixth overall pick in 2018 NHL draft," 29 Apr. 2018 The group demanded a swift and independent investigation of cases in which journalists have been targeted. Ashok Sharma, Fox News, "Media watchdog urges India to protect journalists," 4 July 2018 The group demanded a swift and independent investigation of cases in which journalists have been targeted. Washington Post, "Media watchdog urges India to protect journalists," 4 July 2018 Naturally, Twitter weighed in: taylor swift and j.k. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Taylor Swift and J.K. Rowling Posed for a Selfie and Ignited an Important Debate," 25 June 2018

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


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for swift


Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old English swīfan to revolve — more at swivel

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Learn More about swift

Dictionary Entries near swift







swiftering line

Statistics for swift

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for swift

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

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More Definitions for swift



English Language Learners Definition of swift

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: happening or done quickly or immediately

: moving or able to move very fast

: smart or intelligent



English Language Learners Definition of swift (Entry 2 of 2)

: a small bird that has long, narrow wings


\ ˈswift \
swifter; swiftest

Kids Definition of swift

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : moving or capable of moving with great speed a swift river a swift runner
2 : occurring suddenly a swift kick a swift descent

Other Words from swift

swiftly adverb
swiftness noun



Kids Definition of swift (Entry 2 of 3)

: in a swift manner I crossed a swift-flowing river.



Kids Definition of swift (Entry 3 of 3)

: a small usually black bird that is related to the hummingbirds but looks like a swallow

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More from Merriam-Webster on swift

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with swift

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for swift

Spanish Central: Translation of swift

Nglish: Translation of swift for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of swift for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about swift

Comments on swift

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


a complex dispute or argument

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