1 of 3


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


2 of 3


: swiftly


3 of 3


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

Adjective a swift and accurate response the sleekest, swiftest boat ever to have sailed in the regatta Adverb tried to cross the swift-flowing river
Recent Examples on the Web
But, as more than two dozen interviews across the state made clear, there is momentum behind the cause among a lightly populated region of ranch land, swift rivers, and vast pine forests. Scott Wilson, Anchorage Daily News, 15 Sep. 2023 Medeiros also took swift action, leaving messages for PVDFest organizers, which hadn’t been returned as of Monday afternoon. Brittany Bowker, BostonGlobe.com, 11 Sep. 2023 With one swift swing, Mullins had doubled the Orioles’ run total and given them an 8-5, fifth-inning lead over the visiting St. Louis Cardinals in the first of a seven-game homestand. Hayes Gardner, Baltimore Sun, 11 Sep. 2023 The White House was swift to walk back the unscripted comment, much to Biden’s reported chagrin. Becket Adams, National Review, 10 Sep. 2023 The fierce introduction to this unforgiving environment is a shot of a large bird making a smaller one its prey in one swift motion. Carlos Aguilar, Variety, 8 Sep. 2023 But the results seemed important enough to merit swift publication, even without Meitner's interpretation. Ashraya Gupta, Scientific American, 7 Sep. 2023 And summer’s ceaseless hours of sunshine are in swift decline. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2023 Gone are the days of chafing with this swift, lightweight fabric. Isis Briones, Travel + Leisure, 3 Sep. 2023
That trip was referenced in the whistle-blower complaint that sparked the House’s swift-moving impeachment inquiry. Jennifer Jacobs, Time, 17 Oct. 2019 As of Monday, Golden Police Chief Bill Kilpatrick and Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Schrader are restricting water activities on Clear Creek because of swift-moving water and floating debris. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, 1 July 2019 By The Numbers 5 The forecast for Colorado’s 2019 whitewater rafting season: Rad, thanks to epic snowfall this winter that will likely spell swift-moving rivers. Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post, 19 June 2019 The forecast for Colorado’s 2019 whitewater rafting season: Rad, thanks to epic snowfall this winter that will likely spell swift-moving rivers. Brittany Anas, The Know, 18 June 2019 The Trump Administration’s swift-moving plan to promote 5G networks is running into resistance from the weather-forecasting community. Drew Fitzgerald, WSJ, 14 May 2019
Colorado’s cliffs and caves also provide homes for one of the most mysterious migrating birds: the black swift, which sometimes breeds behind waterfalls. Emily Anthes, New York Times, 29 Aug. 2023 And consequences are harsher for the swift. Alexandre V. Palaoro, Discover Magazine, 12 Mar. 2022 Stoudamire believes that Georgia Tech’s history, name recognition, and location in a high school basketball hotbed will make the rebuild swift. Adam Himmelsbach, BostonGlobe.com, 14 Mar. 2023 Two roads that look and function like freeways were repeatedly widened into channels of swift-moving traffic in the quest for auto-dependency. Curbed, 19 Aug. 2022 One 2013 study showed that over a 6-month period, an alpine swift stayed airborne nearly the entire time. Manasee Wagh, Popular Mechanics, 19 Jan. 2023 Seven months later, Taylor, a two-term Plano Republican, is on his way out of Congress after a swift and dizzying downfall. Patrick Svitek, Dallas News, 13 Apr. 2022 An example was the swift reopening of the economy that followed the eruption of the pandemic in early 2020. Christopher Rugaber, ajc, 11 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'swift.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near swift

Cite this Entry

“Swift.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swift. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 adjective
: moving or capable of moving with great speed
a swift runner
: occurring suddenly or within a very short time
a swift change in weather
swiftly adverb


2 of 3 adverb
: in a swift manner


3 of 3 noun
: any of numerous small mostly dark birds that are related to the hummingbirds but resemble swallows

Biographical Definition

Swift 1 of 2

biographical name (1)

Gustavus Franklin 1839–1903 American meatpacker


2 of 2

biographical name (2)

Jonathan 1667–1745 English (Irish-born) satirist
Swiftian adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on swift

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