\ ˈswā How to pronounce sway (audio) \

Definition of sway

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the action or an instance of swaying or of being swayed : an oscillating, fluctuating, or sweeping motion
2 : an inclination or deflection caused by or as if by swaying
3a : a controlling influence
b : sovereign power : dominion
c : the ability to exercise influence or authority : dominance


swayed; swaying; sways

Definition of sway (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to swing slowly and rhythmically back and forth from a base or pivot
b : to move gently from an upright to a leaning position
2 : to hold sway : act as ruler or governor
3 : to fluctuate or veer between one point, position, or opinion and another

transitive verb

1a : to cause to sway : set to swinging, rocking, or oscillating
b : to cause to bend downward to one side
c : to cause to turn aside : deflect, divert
2 archaic
a : wield
b : govern, rule
3a : to cause to vacillate
b : to exert a guiding or controlling influence on
4 : to hoist in place sway up a mast

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Other Words from sway


swayer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sway


power, authority, jurisdiction, control, command, sway, dominion mean the right to govern or rule or determine. power implies possession of ability to wield force, authority, or influence. the power to mold public opinion authority implies power for a specific purpose within specified limits. granted the authority to manage her estate jurisdiction applies to official power exercised within prescribed limits. the bureau having jurisdiction over parks control stresses the power to direct and restrain. you are responsible for the students under your control command implies the power to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience. the army officer in command sway suggests the extent of exercised power or influence. the empire extended its sway over the region dominion stresses sovereign power or supreme authority. given dominion over all the animals


swing, sway, oscillate, vibrate, fluctuate, waver, undulate mean to move from one direction to its opposite. swing implies a movement of something attached at one end or one side. the door suddenly swung open sway implies a slow swinging or teetering movement. trees swaying in the breeze oscillate stresses a usually regular alternation of direction. an oscillating fan vibrate suggests the rapid oscillation of an elastic body under stress or impact. the vibrating strings of a piano fluctuate suggests constant irregular changes of level, intensity, or value. fluctuating interest rates waver stresses irregular motion suggestive of reeling or tottering. the exhausted runner wavered before collapsing undulate suggests a gentle wavelike motion. an undulating sea of grass

affect, influence, touch, impress, strike, sway mean to produce or have an effect upon. affect implies the action of a stimulus that can produce a response or reaction. the sight affected her to tears influence implies a force that brings about a change (as in nature or behavior). our beliefs are influenced by our upbringing touch may carry a vivid suggestion of close contact and may connote stirring, arousing, or harming. plants touched by frost his emotions were touched by her distress impress stresses the depth and persistence of the effect. only one of the plans impressed him strike, similar to but weaker than impress, may convey the notion of sudden sharp perception or appreciation. struck by the solemnity of the occasion sway implies the acting of influences that are not resisted or are irresistible, with resulting change in character or course of action. politicians who are swayed by popular opinion

Examples of sway in a Sentence

Noun the sway of the ship He has come under the sway of terrorists. The ancient Romans held sway over most of Europe. Verb branches swaying in the breeze He swayed a moment before he fainted. The lawyer tried to sway the jury. She persisted in her argument, but I wouldn't let her sway me.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Kyle Field is about as hostile as enemy SEC stadiums get, with its crowds of more than 100,000 fans that get so loud the stands sway. Laine Higgins, WSJ, 10 Oct. 2021 Trump has endorsed candidates for secretary of state -- a position with vast sway over elections -- in pivotal swing states Arizona, Michigan and Georgia who support his lies about fraud. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 7 Oct. 2021 The level of spending contemplated by Biden Democrats would fundamentally alter the relationship between Americans and the federal government and give Washington more sway over every aspect of people’s lives. Philip Klein, National Review, 6 Oct. 2021 Vehicles bounce, sway and careen over ledges in the environment. Washington Post, 4 Oct. 2021 The textiles used sway with the rhythm of dance floor hits as the SS22 Tony Ward dressed woman twirls and moves. Allyson Portee, Forbes, 30 Sep. 2021 Political action committees and outside spending could hold huge sway in the six weeks leading up to the final election. BostonGlobe.com, 22 Sep. 2021 The setting for the recording of the song befits the folk song, with its campfire harmonies and romantic sway. Althea Legaspi, Rolling Stone, 7 Sep. 2021 But a deeper connection between these wars may hold significant sway over how the U.S. addresses overseas commitments in the future. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Experts worry that deepfakes showing a famous person in a compromising situation might spread misinformation and sway an election. Will Knight, Wired, 19 May 2021 State Assembly Member Robert Rivas, a Democrat from Hollister who grew up in a farmworker family on the Central Coast, said Republicans are wrongly trying to sway rural voters with false promises that gloss over the harsh realities of the drought. Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 Aug. 2021 Of course, the same campaign tactics continued behind the scenes — most prominently utilized by Harvey Weinstein, who saw the Globes ceremony’s earlier timing in award season as an opportunity to sway Oscar voters. Washington Post, 21 May 2021 Moneyed interests with strong feelings on the issue would no doubt launch campaigns to sway voters. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, 14 May 2021 In recent days the film has drawn criticism for its glancing depiction of Amazon's working conditions and the gig economy, though suspicious minds have wondered about studios pushing such stories in the past to sway voters against rivals. Brian Lowry, CNN, 23 Apr. 2021 Moscow almost certainly views U.S. elections as an opportunity to try to undermine U.S. global standing, sow discord inside the U.S., influence U.S. decision making, and sway U.S. voters. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, 14 Apr. 2021 Curiously, there is little evidence that such operations actually sway people’s opinions. Odanga Madung, Wired, 8 Sep. 2021 The other big question is whether the FDA approval will sway any people who are vaccine hesitant. Josh Fischman, Scientific American, 27 Aug. 2021

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1500, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for sway


Middle English sweigh, from sweyen


alteration of earlier swey to fall, swoon, from Middle English sweyen, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse sveigja to sway; akin to Lithuanian svaigti to become dizzy

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

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Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sway.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sway. Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for sway



English Language Learners Definition of sway

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a slow movement back and forth
: a controlling force or influence



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

: to move slowly back and forth
: to cause (someone) to agree with you or to share your opinion


\ ˈswā How to pronounce sway (audio) \
swayed; swaying

Kids Definition of sway

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to swing slowly back and forth or from side to side Tree branches were swaying in the wind.
2 : to change or cause to change between one point, position, or opinion and another The lawyer tried to sway the jury.



Kids Definition of sway (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of slowly swinging back and forth or from side to side
2 : a controlling influence or force : rule The country is under the sway of a tyrant.

More from Merriam-Webster on sway

Nglish: Translation of sway for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sway for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sway


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