simple past tense of swim.



verb (used without object), swam, swum, swim·ming.

to move in water by movements of the limbs, fins, tail, etc.
to float on the surface of water or some other liquid.
to move, rest, or be suspended in air as if swimming in water.
to move, glide, or go smoothly over a surface.
to be immersed or steeped in or overflowing or flooded with a liquid: eyes swimming with tears.
to be dizzy or giddy; seem to whirl: My head began to swim.

verb (used with object), swam, swum, swim·ming.

to move along in or cross (a body of water) by swimming: to swim a lake.
to perform (a particular stroke) in swimming: to swim a sidestroke.
to cause to swim or float, as on a stream.
to furnish with sufficient water to swim or float.


an act, instance, or period of swimming.
a motion as of swimming; a smooth, gliding movement.

Origin of swim

before 900; Middle English swimmen, Old English swimman; cognate with Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen, Old Norse svimma
Related formsswim·ma·ble, adjectiveswim·mer, nounnon·swim·mer, nounout·swim, verb, out·swam, out·swum, out·swim·ming.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for swam

Contemporary Examples of swam

Historical Examples of swam

  • Some of them tried it, but the Indians swam after them, stabbing and pulling them under.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • No, Grandad, for when we thought we had it sure, it jumped into the water and swam away.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • No sooner was it apparent that she was free than the Dyaks sprang into the water and swam to her side.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • Then he drew himself upon his plank and swam, doubling his speed.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • A sickening vision of that first night in Paris swam before her.

British Dictionary definitions for swam



the past tense of swim


verb swims, swimming, swam or swum

(intr) to move along in water, etc, by means of movements of the body or parts of the body, esp the arms and legs, or (in the case of fish) tail and fins
(tr) to cover (a distance or stretch of water) in this way
(tr) to compete in (a race) in this way
(intr) to be supported by and on a liquid; float
(tr) to use (a particular stroke) in swimming
(intr) to move smoothly, usually through air or over a surface
(intr) to reel or seem to reelmy head swam; the room swam around me
(intr; often foll by in or with) to be covered or flooded with water or other liquid
(intr often foll by in) to be liberally supplied (with)he's swimming in money
(tr) to cause to float or swim
(tr) to provide (something) with water deep enough to float in
swim against the tide or swim against the stream to resist prevailing opinion
swim with the tide or swim with the stream to conform to prevailing opinion


the act, an instance, or period of swimming
any graceful gliding motion
a condition of dizziness; swoon
a pool in a river good for fishing
in the swim informal fashionable or active in social or political activities
Derived Formsswimmable, adjectiveswimmer, nounswimming, noun, adjective

Word Origin for swim

Old English swimman; related to Old Norse svima, German schwimmen, Gothic swumsl pond, Norwegian svamla to paddle
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 swam



Old English swimman "to move in or on the water, float" (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, past participle swummen), from Proto-Germanic *swemjanan (cf. Old Saxon and Old High German swimman, Old Norse svimma, Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen), from PIE root *swem- "to be in motion."

The root is sometimes said to be restricted to Germanic, but possible cognates are Welsh chwyf "motion," Old Irish do-sennaim "I hunt," Lithuanian sundyti "to chase." For the usual Indo-European word, see natatorium. Sense of "reel or move unsteadily" first recorded 1670s; of the head or brain, from 1702. Figurative phrase sink or swim is attested from mid-15c., often with reference to ordeals of suspected witches.



1540s, "the clear part of any liquid" (above the sediment), from swim (v.). Meaning "part of a river or stream frequented by fish" (and hence fishermen) is from 1828, and is probably the source of the figurative meaning "the current of the latest affairs or events" (1869).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with swam


In addition to the idioms beginning with swim

  • swim against the current
  • swim with the tide

also see:

  • in the swim
  • sink or swim
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.