verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)


Origin of sway

1300–50; (verb) Middle English sweyen < Old Norse sveigja “to bend, sway” (transitive); (noun) Middle English, derivative of the verb
Related formssway·a·ble, adjectivesway·er, nounsway·ing·ly, adverbself-sway, nounun·sway·a·ble, adjectiveun·sway·ing, adjective

Synonyms for sway

1. wave. 3. lean, bend, tend.

Synonym study

1. See swing1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sway

Contemporary Examples of sway

Historical Examples of sway

  • Kirkwood rose, balancing himself against the leap and sway of the boat.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • From them dates the sway of Aristotle throughout the middle ages.

  • I want to be able to go to her, knowing that no other woman can sway me from her for a second.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • But the whole strength and sway of their king is derived from the authority of the Romans.

  • But the Field of poppies and daisies begins to sway as under a gale.

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

British Dictionary definitions for sway



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


control; power
a swinging or leaning movement
archaic dominion; governing authority
hold sway to be master; reign
Derived Formsswayable, adjectiveswayer, nounswayful, adjective

Word Origin for sway

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

c.1300, "to go, glide, move," probably from Old Norse sveigja "to bend, swing, give way," from Proto-Germanic *swaigijanan and related to swag (v.) and swing. The sense of "swing, wave, waver" is first recorded c.1500. Related: Swayed; swaying. The noun meaning "controlling influence" (to be under the sway of) is 1510s, from a transitive sense of the verb in Dutch and other languages. The verb in this sense is recorded in English from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with sway


see hold sway.

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