View synonyms for sway


[ swey ]

verb (used without object)

  1. to move or swing to and fro, as something fixed at one end or resting on a support.

    Synonyms: wave

  2. to move or incline to one side or in a particular direction.
  3. to incline in opinion, sympathy, tendency, etc.:

    She swayed toward conservatism.

    Synonyms: tend, bend, lean

  4. to fluctuate or vacillate, as in opinion:

    His ideas swayed this way and that.

  5. to wield power; exercise rule.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cause to move to and fro or to incline from side to side.
  2. to cause to move to one side or in a particular direction.
  3. Nautical. to hoist or raise (a yard, topmast, or the like) (usually followed by up ).
  4. to cause to fluctuate or vacillate.
  5. to cause (the mind, emotions, etc., or a person) to incline or turn in a specified way; influence.
  6. to cause to swerve, as from a purpose or a course of action:

    He swayed them from their plan.

  7. to dominate; direct.
  8. to wield, as a weapon or scepter.
  9. to rule; govern.


  1. the act of swaying; swaying movement.
  2. rule; dominion:

    He held all Asia in his sway.

  3. dominating power or influence:

    Many voters were under his sway.


/ sweɪ /


  1. usually intr to swing or cause to swing to and fro
  2. usually intr to lean or incline or cause to lean or incline to one side or in different directions in turn
  3. usually intr to vacillate or cause to vacillate between two or more opinions
  4. to be influenced or swerve or influence or cause to swerve to or from a purpose or opinion
  5. tr nautical to hoist (a yard, mast, or other spar)
  6. archaic.
    to rule or wield power (over)
  7. archaic.
    tr to wield (a weapon)


  1. control; power
  2. a swinging or leaning movement
  3. archaic.
    dominion; governing authority
  4. hold sway
    to be master; reign

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Derived Forms

  • ˈswayful, adjective
  • ˈswayable, adjective
  • ˈswayer, noun

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Other Words From

  • swaya·ble adjective
  • swayer noun
  • swaying·ly adverb
  • self-sway noun
  • un·swaya·ble adjective
  • un·swaying adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of sway1

First recorded in 1300–50; (for the verb) Middle English sweyen, from Old Norse sveigja “to bend, sway” (transitive); noun derivative of the verb

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Word History and Origins

Origin of sway1

C16: probably from Old Norse sveigja to bend; related to Dutch zwaaien, Low German swājen

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Idioms and Phrases

see hold sway .

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Synonym Study

See swing 1.

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Example Sentences

Doomsday messaging may be accurate with regards to the gravity of the problem at hand, but it holds little sway over a public wracked by empathy burnout.

From Fortune

I stayed at their Catskills East location and woke up each morning to the sway of century-old trees.

The hearing gave the clearest indication yet of both parties' best arguments in the matter and of which positions seem most likely to hold sway with Rogers as the case heads toward a full trial.

These kinds of rules are in place to protect the governing process from improper political influence and elections from the sway of powerful actors.

Physicists have never proposed that the law of gravity, the increase in entropy, or the various electromagnetic “rules” that hold sway among subatomic particles should be consulted as a source of ethical good.

There were no obvious leaders; no single ideology or organization held sway over the crowd.

Many millions have been spent on television ads in North Carolina, as groups on the right and left try to sway the electorate.

Those groups were eager to get their hands on anyone who could be used for ransom or political sway.

None of these studies, campaigns, or assertions should be enough to sway public opinion towards or against pot.

You have to sway from one foot to another to keep them from staking their claim.

Vicars' wives had come and gone, but all had submitted, some after a brief struggle, to old Mrs. Wurzel's sway.

He rules with a gentler sway than many who are accustomed to other methods of command would believe possible.

His brain—the part where human reasoning holds normal sway—was dominated by the purely primitive instinct of flight.

Shakespeare tells us that mercy 'is mightiest in the mightiest,' and is 'above this sceptred sway'; Merch.

The mob now ruled with undisputed sway in both legislative and executive halls.


Related Words

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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