noun Chiefly Northeastern U.S.

a low place in a tract of land, usually moister and often having ranker vegetation than the adjacent higher land.
a valleylike intersection of two slopes in a piece of land.

Origin of swale

1400–50; late Middle English; originally a cool, shady spot, perhaps < Old Norse svalr cool, or svalir a covered porch
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for swale

Historical Examples of swale

  • No breath of air stirred the foliage or the bending rushes in the swale.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • "Oh, it's just that swale to the right of the driveway," said Rufus.

    In Apple-Blossom Time

    Clara Louise Burnham

  • "He may be in the swale," muttered the watcher as he stood with his eye to the loop-hole.

  • There are areas of swale, or wet bottom-lands, which may be drained to advantage.

  • Myton is on the Swale, near its junction with the Ure, and so a little east of Boroughbridge.

    The Bruce

    John Barbour

British Dictionary definitions for swale



mainly US
  1. a moist depression in a tract of land, usually with rank vegetation
  2. (as modifier)swell and swale topography

Word Origin for swale

C16: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse svala to chill
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 swale

"low, hollow place, often boggy," 1580s, special use of Scottish swaill "low, hollow place," or dialectal East Anglian swale "shady place" (mid-15c.); both probably from Old Norse svalr "cool," from Proto-Germanic *swalaz.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper