a male admirer or lover.
a country lad.
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. 2019

Examples from the Web for swain

Contemporary Examples of swain

  • After two hearings in New York last week that were at times comic, Judge Swain fashioned a compromise.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Madoff's Millionaire Secretary

    Allan Dodds Frank

    December 20, 2010

Historical Examples of swain

  • 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.

  • He called in the university for Swain, and the two went "down town" together.

    Sons and Lovers

    David Herbert Lawrence

  • Mr. Swain is an honest and an able man, though he believes in things I do not.

    Richard Carvel, Complete

    Winston Churchill

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