a male admirer or lover.
a country lad.
a country gallant.

Nearby words

  1. swaggering,
  2. swaggeringly,
  3. swaggie,
  4. swagman,
  5. swahili,
  6. swainson's hawk,
  7. swainson's thrush,
  8. swak,
  9. swakara,
  10. swale

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for swain

British Dictionary definitions for swain


noun archaic, or poetic

a male lover or admirer
a country youth
Derived Formsswainish, adjective

Word Origin for swain

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