\ 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

But in a two-hour news conference on Tuesday, Rosselló defied calls for his resignation and dismissed the corruption accusations swirling around his administration as a malady that afflicts every society. Washington Post, "Puerto Rico is in chaos, and some worry continued instability is a major threat," 18 July 2019 During the course of his 36-year Senate career, school desegregation, more than any other issue with the possible exception of crime, crystallized the political and civil rights crosscurrents swirling around Mr. Biden. New York Times, "How Joe Biden Became the Democrats’ Anti-Busing Crusader," 15 July 2019 Cubs were raised in Passage's house on the property, their fluffy bodies swirling around the kitchen floor and in portable baby cribs, former employees said. oregonlive.com, "The trouble with tigers in America," 13 July 2019 But this one is notable really because of the politics swirling around it. Sophia Tareen, The Denver Post, "Nationwide deportation roundups to begin this weekend, according to Trump admins," 11 July 2019 But this one is notable really because of the politics swirling around it. Fortune, "Here’s When Postponed ICE Sweeps Are Expected to Begin," 11 July 2019 But the questions swirling around his campaign on this front have never been fully addressed publicly. NBC News, "Biden's mastery of backlash politics takes center stage," 6 July 2019 Getty Images Mischa was on the up and up, but the rumors swirling around her threatened to dull her shine, and Perez Hilton's mean-spirited two cents certainly didn't do her any favors. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Why Are Mischa Barton and Perez Hilton Feuding on 'The Hills: New Beginnings'?," 2 July 2019 In the aftermath of the Anthony Davis trade there was a popular debate swirling around the NBA: how should the Lakers use their remaining cap space? Andrew Sharp, SI.com, "The Lakers and a Free Agency Moment of Truth," 27 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The bugs seem to particularly like areas behind impediments, where the water swirls and is aerated, such as below beaver dams or road culverts. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "This endangered water beetle is found only in a few streams Up North," 16 July 2019 Add the oil and swirl to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Simran Singh, The Mercury News, "Quick Cook: Easy teriyaki glazed steak," 13 July 2019 Try ripples of chocolate sauce, swirls of fruit sauce and pockets of dulce de leche or caramel. Washington Post, "How to create the ice cream of your dreams," 9 July 2019 Heat a sauté pan over high heat until extremely hot and add the remaining tablespoon of oil and swirl to spread. Michael Gardiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Chef’s guidance in foraging leads the way to tasty culinary discoveries," 25 June 2019 At a Thursday night dinner celebration in a former library, octopus carpaccio was served in light pink swirl bowls, and the ceiling was hung with a variety of lights, the Bonbon glowing next to George Nelson’s Saucer Bubble and Ball Bubble pendants. Ella Riley-adams, Vogue, "Mette Hay’s Guide to a Design-Filled Weekend in Copenhagen," 18 June 2019 The gray lines and swirls spring to life and make the rich designs resemble colorful landscapes of planets and moons. Daniel Stone, National Geographic, "See these otherworldly landscapes—created by whisky," 17 June 2019 Then in 2004, Raymond Goldstein, a physicist then at the University of Arizona, and colleagues placed bacteria in three-dimensional droplets and observed jets and swirls that appeared and disappeared. Quanta Magazine, "Swirling Bacteria Linked to the Physics of Phase Transitions," 16 June 2019 While the planet famous for its brilliant stripes and swirls will be visible to the naked eye, binoculars or a small telescope only enhance its clarity. Danielle Garrand, CBS News, "Jupiter will get so close to earth this month its largest moons will be visible with just a pair of binoculars," 11 June 2019

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

21 Jul 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 complain fretfully

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