\ˈswər(-ə)l \
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 \ adverb

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

Add maple syrup, butter, salt, and lemon juice and cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture begins to thicken, deepen in color and smell like caramel, 5 to 8 min.; remove from heat. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Maple-Pear Tarte Tatin," 9 Oct. 2018 Add oil, swirl the pan to coat, then add beef, spreading into an even layer. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Korean-Style Beef and Apple Lettuce Cups," 9 Oct. 2018 The soggy remnants of Florence keep causing chaos in coastal South Carolina long after the hurricane swirled ashore, with rivers still flowing far beyond their banks and a new storm gathering more rain just offshore. Jeffrey Collins, Fox News, "Soggy South Carolina to get more rain as flooding continues," 25 Sep. 2018 As a professional food and travel writer, some of that was already on the docket, but a newfound guilt swirled around my lifestyle. Jackie Bryant, Harper's BAZAAR, "Saying Goodbye to Your Future, Along with Your Marriage," 4 Sep. 2018 There are a lot of conflicts swirling around, mostly pertaining to the ritual of software updates and the air of existential dread. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Verge, "The new musical Emojiland is deeply concerned with emoji angst," 19 July 2018 Police officers linger on the streets, and a helicopter swirls overhead. Brad Heath, USA TODAY, "Baltimore police stopped noticing crime after Freddie Gray's death. A wave of killings followed.," 12 July 2018 The blueberry soft serve occasionally swirled with vanilla or topped with sprinkles, even once caused an uproar. Sarah Brookbank, Cincinnati.com, "Sunday is National Blue Ice Cream Day," 29 June 2018 Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, 7–8 minutes. Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appetit, "Instant Pot Glazed and Grilled Ribs," 25 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Other than that, the best of the old Four Seasons has been successfully transplanted—the steak tartare, the farmhouse duck and, of course, the celebratory mountain of pink cotton candy, now with a bit more of a deliberate swirl. Steven Stolman, Town & Country, "A Clear-Eyed Assessment of the New Four Seasons—By Someone Who Loved the Old One," 7 Sep. 2018 Blue and purple eye shadow, eyeliner, and lipstick seem to be the hero products in most of these tutorials, with artists using them to draw swirls on their faces, chests, and arms. Zoe Weiner, Allure, "Makeup Artists Are Recreating Ariana Grande's "God Is a Woman" Body Paint Look," 19 July 2018 Blue and purple eyeshadow, eyeliner, and lipstick seem to be the hero products in most of these tutorials, with artists using them to draw swirls on their faces, chests, and arms. Zoe Weiner, Teen Vogue, "Makeup Artists Create Ariana Grande "God Is a Woman" Beauty Looks," 19 July 2018 Five years ago, Deitch stepped down as director of the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), amid a swirl of negative press and board resignations, and returned to New York to revive his career as an art dealer. Stephen Wallis, WSJ, "A New Frank Gehry-Designed Gallery Space Opens in L.A.," 10 Sep. 2018 The figure, wrapped in a swirl of billowing cloak, is powerfully muscled. Christopher Knight, latimes.com, "Out of the shadows and into the light: 'Chiaroscuro Woodcut' is a sleeper hit at LACMA," 5 July 2018 The weeks that followed have been a chaotic swirl of finger-pointing and recriminations as angry parents, students, state regulators, politicians, and the public have been left to wonder what went so wrong, so quickly. Laura Krantz, BostonGlobe.com, "Mount Ida projected an image of success right until it folded," 22 Apr. 2018 The headquarters of Red Aspen LLC is a swirl of activity. Dana Oland, idahostatesman, "This Boise startup hit $1 million in sales in 5 months. ‘I have no idea where we’ll be in five years.’ | Idaho Statesman," 5 Apr. 2018 The vortex is a swirl of cold air that sits over the Arctic region. National Geographic, "Bomb Cyclones and Polar Vortexes—This Winter's Scary Weather Explained," 3 Jan. 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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Statistics for swirl

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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 \
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

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to enclose within walls

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