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  1. a body of honeybees that emigrate from a hive and fly off together, accompanied by a queen, to start a new colony.
  2. a body of bees settled together, as in a hive.
  3. a great number of things or persons, especially in motion.
  4. Biology. a group or aggregation of free-floating or free-swimming cells or organisms.
  5. Geology. a cluster of earthquakes or other geologic phenomena or features.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to fly off together in a swarm, as bees.
  2. to move about, along, forth, etc., in great numbers, as things or persons.
  3. to congregate, hover, or occur in groups or multitudes; be exceedingly numerous, as in a place or area.
  4. (of a place) to be thronged or overrun; abound or teem: The beach swarms with children on summer weekends.
  5. Biology. to move or swim about in a swarm.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to swarm about, over, or in; throng; overrun.
  2. to produce a swarm of.
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Origin of swarm1

before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English swearm; cognate with German Schwarm swarm, Old Norse svarmr tumult; (v.) Middle English swarmen, derivative of the noun
Related formsswarm·er, noun


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3. horde, host, mass.

Synonym study

3. See crowd1.


verb (used with or without object)
  1. to climb by clasping with the legs and hands or arms and drawing oneself up; shin.
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Origin of swarm2

First recorded in 1540–50; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for swarm


  1. a group of social insects, esp bees led by a queen, that has left the parent hive in order to start a new colony
  2. a large mass of small animals, esp insects
  3. a throng or mass, esp when moving or in turmoil
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  1. (intr) (of small animals, esp bees) to move in or form a swarm
  2. (intr) to congregate, move about or proceed in large numbers
  3. (when intr, often foll by with) to overrun or be overrun (with)the house swarmed with rats
  4. (tr) to cause to swarm
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Word Origin

Old English swearm; related to Old Norse svarmr uproar, Old High German swaram swarm


  1. (when intr, usually foll by up) to climb (a ladder, etc) by gripping with the hands and feetthe boys swarmed up the rigging
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Word Origin

C16: of unknown origin
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 swarm


"cloud of bees or other insects," Old English swearm, from Proto-Germanic *swarmaz (cf. Old Saxon, Middle Low German swarm, Swedish svärm, Middle Dutch swerm, Old High German swarm, German Schwarm "swarm;" Old Norse svarmr "tumult"), usually derived from PIE imitative root *swer- (2) "to buzz, whisper" (see susurration) on notion of humming sound. But OED suggests possible connection with base of swerve and ground sense of "agitated, confused, or deflected motion."

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"to climb by clasping with the arms and legs alternately," 1540s, perhaps originally a sailors' word, of uncertain origin. Also recorded as swarve (16c.) and in Northern dialects swarble, swarmle.

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"to leave a hive to start another," late 14c., from swarm (n.). Related: Swarmed; swarming.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper