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verb (used with object)
  1. to take into the stomach by drawing through the throat and esophagus with a voluntary muscular action, as food, drink, or other substances.
  2. to take in so as to envelop; withdraw from sight; assimilate or absorb: He was swallowed by the crowd.
  3. to accept without question or suspicion.
  4. to accept without opposition; put up with: to swallow an insult.
  5. to accept for lack of an alternative: Consumers will have to swallow new price hikes.
  6. to suppress (emotion, a laugh, a sob, etc.) as if by drawing it down one's throat.
  7. to take back; retract: to swallow one's words.
  8. to enunciate poorly; mutter: He swallowed his words.
verb (used without object)
  1. to perform the act of swallowing.
  1. the act or an instance of swallowing.
  2. a quantity swallowed at one time; a mouthful: Take one swallow of brandy.
  3. capacity for swallowing.
  4. Also called crown, throat. Nautical, Machinery. the space in a block, between the groove of the sheave and the shell, through which the rope runs.

Origin of swallow

before 1000; (v.) Middle English swalwen, variant of swelwen, Old English swelgan; cognate with German schwelgen; akin to Old Norse svelgja; (noun) Middle English swalwe, swolgh throat, abyss, whirlpool, Old English geswelgh (see y-); akin to Middle Low German swelch, Old High German swelgo glutton, Old Norse svelgr whirlpool, devourer
Related formsswal·low·a·ble, adjectiveswal·low·er, nounun·swal·low·a·ble, adjectiveun·swal·lowed, adjective

Synonyms for swallow

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  1. any of numerous small, long-winged passerine birds of the family Hirundinidae, noted for their swift, graceful flight and for the extent and regularity of their migrations.Compare bank swallow, barn swallow, martin.
  2. any of several unrelated, swallowlike birds, as the chimney swift.

Origin of swallow

before 900; Middle English swalwe, Old English swealwe; cognate with German Schwalbe, Old Norse svala
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for swallow

Contemporary Examples of swallow

Historical Examples of swallow

  • Andrew paused in the shallows to allow Sally one swallow; then he went on.

  • And the amount of stories Mark, with all his contemplativeness could swallow, was amazing.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Again, Garson was forced to wet his lips with a dry tongue, and to swallow painfully.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He was just in time to swallow a hurried meal and set off to the theatre with the Creams.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • And yet you have only skimmed the beautiful river's surface as a swallow skims a lake.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

British Dictionary definitions for swallow


verb (mainly tr)
  1. to pass (food, drink, etc) through the mouth to the stomach by means of the muscular action of the oesophagus
  2. (often foll by up) to engulf or destroy as if by ingestionNazi Germany swallowed up several small countries
  3. informal to believe gulliblyhe will never swallow such an excuse
  4. to refrain from uttering or manifestingto swallow one's disappointment
  5. to endure without retaliation
  6. to enunciate (words, etc) indistinctly; mutter
  7. (often foll by down) to eat or drink reluctantly
  8. (intr) to perform or simulate the act of swallowing, as in gulping
  9. swallow one's words to retract a statement, argument, etc, often in humiliating circumstances
  1. the act of swallowing
  2. the amount swallowed at any single time; mouthful
  3. Also called: crown, throat nautical the opening between the shell and the groove of the sheave of a block, through which the rope is passed
  4. rare another word for throat, gullet
  5. rare a capacity for swallowing; appetite
Derived Formsswallowable, adjectiveswallower, noun

Word Origin for swallow

Old English swelgan; related to Old Norse svelga, Old High German swelgan to swallow, Swedish svalg gullet


  1. any passerine songbird of the family Hirundinidae, esp Hirundo rustica (common or barn swallow), having long pointed wings, a forked tail, short legs, and a rapid flightRelated adjective: hirundine
  2. See fairy swallow
Derived Formsswallow-like, adjective

Word Origin for swallow

Old English swealwe; related to Old Frisian swale, Old Norse svala, Old High German swalwa
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 swallow

"take in through the throat," Old English swelgan (class III strong verb; past tense swealg, past participle swolgen), from Proto-Germanic *swelkh-/*swelg- (cf. Old Saxon farswelgan, Old Norse svelgja "to swallow," Middle Dutch swelghen, Dutch zwelgen "to gulp, swallow," Old High German swelahan "to swallow," German schwelgen "to revel"), probably from PIE base *swel- (1) "to eat, drink." Cognate with Old Norse svelgr "whirlpool," literally "devourer, swallower." Sense of "consume, destroy" is attested from mid-14c. Meaning "to accept without question" is from 1590s. Related: Swallowed; swallowing. The noun meaning "an act of swallowing" is recorded from 1822.


migratory bird (family Hirundinidae), Old English swealwe, from Proto-Germanic *swalwon (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Swedish svala, Danish svale, Middle Dutch zwalewe, Dutch zwaluw, Old High German swalawa, German Schwalbe), from PIE *swol-wi- (cf. Russian solowej, Slovak slavik, Polish słowik "nightinggale"). The etymological sense is disputed. Popularly regarded as a harbinger of summer; swallows building nests on or near a house is considered good luck.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

swallow in Medicine


  1. To pass something, as food or drink, through the mouth and throat into the stomach.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with swallow


In addition to the idioms beginning with swallow

  • swallow one's pride
  • swallow one's words

also see:

  • bitter pill to swallow
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.