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[swel-ter] /ˈswɛl tər/
verb (used without object)
to suffer from oppressive heat.
verb (used with object)
to oppress with heat.
Archaic. to exude, as venom.
a sweltering condition.
Origin of swelter
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English swelt(e)ren (v.), equivalent to swelt(en) to be overcome with heat (Old English sweltan to die; cognate with Old Norse svelta, Gothic swiltan) + -eren -er6
Related forms
unsweltered, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for swelter
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The beat of the sun from above and the swelter of dust from below were overpowering.

    The Great Boer War Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The city, hot as an oven, seemed to swelter in the stifling night.

  • "But in hot weather like this it must make you swelter," continued Elmer.

    Endurance Test

    Alan Douglas
  • How far away now seems the welter and swelter of the city, the hectic sophistication of the streets.

    Ballads of a Bohemian Robert W. Service
  • The poor children have to swelter in knitted socks, knitted hoods, and knitted sweaters, just because they come from America.

  • Then there is hot weather, perhaps up in the eighties, and Californians grumble, swelter and rustle for summer clothes.

  • She knew as a child what it was to live amidst storms of babies, in the heat and swelter of fecundity.

    The Rainbow D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence
  • How the crowded chickadee babies must swelter in their bed of fur and feathers tucked inside a close, stuffy hole!

  • He hadn't much missed her in the swelter of the new passion, but after ten days passed he began to worry.

    Painted Veils James Huneker
British Dictionary definitions for swelter


(intransitive) to suffer under oppressive heat, esp to sweat and feel faint
(transitive) (archaic) to exude (venom)
(transitive) (rare) to cause to suffer under oppressive heat
a sweltering condition (esp in the phrase in a swelter)
oppressive humid heat
Word Origin
C15 swelten, from Old English sweltan to die; related to Old Norse svelta to starve, Old High German swelzan to burn with passion; see sultry
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
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Word Origin and History for swelter

c.1400, frequentative of swelten "be faint (especially with heat)," late 14c., from Old English sweltan "to die," from Proto-Germanic *swel- (cf. Old Saxon sweltan "to die," Old Norse svelta "to put to death, starve," Gothic sviltan "to die"), originally "to burn slowly," hence "to be overcome with heat or fever;" also the source of Old English swelan "to burn," from PIE root *swel- (2) "to shine, beam" (see Selene). For specialization of words meaning "to die," cf. starve. Related: Sweltered; sweltering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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