\ ˈswər(-ə)l How to pronounce swirl (audio) \
swirled; swirling; swirls

Definition of swirl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to move with an eddying or whirling motion swirling water
b : to pass in whirling confusion
2 : to have a twist or convolution

transitive verb

: to cause to swirl swirled her drink



Definition of swirl (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a whirling mass or motion : eddy
b : whirling confusion a swirl of events
2 : a twisting shape, mark, or pattern
3 : an act or instance of swirling

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Other Words from swirl


swirlingly \ ˈswər-​liŋ-​lē How to pronounce swirlingly (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for swirl

Synonyms: Verb

agitate, churn, stir, wash, whirl

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Examples of swirl in a Sentence


The water swirled around the drain. kept swirling her lemonade until I thought the sound of clinking ice would drive me insane


A swirl of smoke rose from the chimney. He painted swirls of color on the canvas. ice cream with chocolate swirls
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Rumors of Lawrence's engagement began to swirl in February 2019, and photos of the actress' incredible ring followed. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Jennifer Lawrence Celebrates Her Engagement Party in a Dress Fit for a Princess," 13 May 2019 When rumors that media organizations were looking into allegations against Mr. Moonves began to swirl late last year, Mr. Gordon tapped Michael Aiello, chairman of the corporate department of the law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, to look into it. Joe Flint, WSJ, "A Drama CBS Can’t Cancel—the One in Its Boardroom," 15 Oct. 2018 Rumors began to swirl that the former footballer was dating the 23-year-old pageant queen after Tebow's sister, Katie, posted a photo of her brother with Peters on her Instagram. Morgan M. Evans, Fox News, "Tim Tebow's Miss Universe girlfriend celebrates his birthday with touching Instagram post," 15 Aug. 2018 Rumors began to swirl in the wake of Andrew’s death. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Joanna of Naples," 3 July 2018 When photos of Bella Hadid and Drake hanging out last fall spilled onto the Internet, rumors began to swirl about a romance between the two. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Bella Hadid Shuts Down Rumors That Drake's 'Finesse' Lyrics Are About Her," 29 June 2018 The stock has fallen 11 percent since late April, when speculation about a possible hostile bid by Comcast first began to swirl. New York Times, "Disney’s Strong Quarter Is Shadowed by Comcast’s Maneuvers for Fox," 8 May 2018 After shutting those ideas down, rumors began swirling over whether or not Kylie is pregnant with her second child. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Is Kylie Jenner Pregnant With Her Second Baby?!," 22 Jan. 2019 Rumors began swirling earlier in the week that the couple tied the knot on Sunday evening, though the two had yet to confirm any news—until now. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Miley Cyrus Seems to Confirm She and Liam Hemsworth Are Married," 26 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the energetic swirl of allegorical motifs and internal references, in smearing the line between figuration and abstraction, Kokoschka emerges as a forerunner of artists like R.B. Kitaj and Georg Baselitz. A.j. Goldmann, WSJ, "‘Oskar Kokoschka—Expressionist, Migrant, European. A Retrospective’ Review: Longevity as Blessing and Curse," 2 Jan. 2019 Sunday Folks Known for their decadent waffles topped with tall swirls of soft serve, Sunday Folks is the most popular ice cream and dessert café for miles–– and perhaps the most Instagrammed as well. Annette Tan, Condé Nast Traveler, "16 Best Cafes in Singapore," 4 Mar. 2018 Next up, a swirl of bronzer and an on-the-go girl’s guide to contouring. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Kourtney Kardashian’s Guide to Natural-ish Masking and Makeup," 2 Apr. 2019 When the door opened, a swirl of cigarette smoke oozed out and wrapped around my head like a thick ribbon. Anonymous, Good Housekeeping, "I Had to Choose Between Safety and My Mother," 21 Dec. 2018 But in the end, the fact that a swirl of the oldest galaxies in the universe encircles our own Milky Way might not be that surprising after all. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Some of the Oldest Galaxies in the Universe Orbit the MIlky Way," 16 Aug. 2018 The color scheme gave us major galaxy vibes, and as Teen Vogue's own Fashion News Editor Alyssa Hardy put it, was not terribly unlike her 2018 Met Gala gown worn in May, which also featured ethereal swirls of muted pastel hues. Kristin Corpuz, Teen Vogue, "Lush Teases New Ariana Grande Themed Bath Bomb on Instagram," 17 July 2018 Mark and Kym Hilinski keenly remember the swirl of activity. Fox News, "Hilinski family won't shun football after QB son's suicide," 28 Aug. 2018 Pour wet ingredients over dry ones and fold just until no traces of flour remain (batter will be lumpy). Carefully remove hot pan from oven and swirl remaining tablespoon butter all over bottom to melt. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Sheet Pan Pancake with Blueberry Syrup," 17 Aug. 2018

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


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for swirl


Middle English

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Dictionary Entries near swirl








Statistics for swirl

Last Updated

9 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for swirl

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

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More Definitions for swirl



English Language Learners Definition of swirl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move in circles or to cause (something) to move in circles



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

: a twisting or swirling movement, form, or object
: a state of busy movement or activity


\ ˈswərl How to pronounce swirl (audio) \
swirled; swirling

Kids Definition of swirl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move with a spinning or twisting motion



Kids Definition of swirl (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a spinning mass or motion : eddy a swirl of water
2 : busy movement or activity She got caught up in the swirl of events.
3 : a twisting shape or mark The ice cream has chocolate swirls.

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More from Merriam-Webster on swirl

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with swirl

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for swirl

Spanish Central: Translation of swirl

Nglish: Translation of swirl for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of swirl for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about swirl

Comments on swirl

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


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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