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  1. a male admirer or lover.
  2. a country lad.
  3. a country gallant.

Origin of swain

before 1150; Middle English swein servant < Old Norse sveinn boy, servant; cognate with Old English swān
Related formsswain·ish, adjectiveswain·ish·ness, nounun·der·swain, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for swain

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The two boys invited me and Mrs. Swain to stop at Salem to visit them, which we did.

    Herbert Hoover

    Vernon Kellogg

  • The more costly the musical ingredients, the greater the swain's devotion!

    Jane Journeys On

    Ruth Comfort Mitchell

  • A swain touched then his lute, or whatever you may call it, to his Dulcinea.

  • Her own swain was waiting for her, but not for that would she abjure the quest.

  • It was in 1843 that Mr. Swain engraved his first block for Punch.

    The History of "Punch"

    M. H. Spielmann

British Dictionary definitions for swain


noun archaic, or poetic
  1. a male lover or admirer
  2. a country youth
Derived Formsswainish, adjective

Word Origin

Old English swān swineherd; related to Old High German swein, Old Norse sveinn boy; see swine
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for swain


mid-12c., "young man attendant upon a knight," from Old Norse sveinn "boy, servant, attendant," from Proto-Germanic *swainaz "attendant, servant," properly "one's own (man)," from PIE *swoi-no-, from root *swe- "oneself, alone, apart" (see idiom). Cognate with Old English swan "shepherd, swineherd," Old Saxon swen, Old High German swein. Meaning "country or farm laborer" is from 1570s; that of "lover, wooer" (in pastoral poetry) is from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper