verb (used with object), swept, sweep·ing.

verb (used without object), swept, sweep·ing.


Origin of sweep

1250–1300; Middle English swepen (v.); compare Old English geswēpa sweepings, derivative of swāpan to sweep (> obsolete English swope); cognate with German schweifen
Related formssweep·a·ble, adjectiveun·sweep·a·ble, adjective



noun Slang.

a sweepstakes.
Also sweeps.

Origin of sweep

by shortening
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sweep

Contemporary Examples of sweep

Historical Examples of sweep

  • From this position he commanded with his rifle the sweep of hillside all around the cabin.

  • I have never had to sweep out the schoolhouse since the time you know of.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • The posters, maculated with filth, garnished like tapestry the sweep of the curbstone.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • I hauled him in, and he told me, he thought, some one had hold of the other end of the sweep.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • These form the woods which sweep from rocky shore to topmost hill.

British Dictionary definitions for sweep


verb sweeps, sweeping or swept

to clean or clear (a space, chimney, etc) with a brush, broom, etc
(often foll by up) to remove or collect (dirt, rubbish, etc) with a brush, broom, etc
to move in a smooth or continuous manner, esp quickly or forciblycars swept along the road
to move in a proud or dignified fashionshe swept past
to spread or pass rapidly across, through, or along (a region, area, etc)the news swept through the town
(tr) to direct (the gaze, line of fire, etc) over; survey
(tr; foll by away or off) to overwhelm emotionallyshe was swept away by his charm
(tr) to brush or lightly touch (a surface, etc)the dress swept along the ground
(tr often foll by away) to convey, clear, or abolish, esp with strong or continuous movementsthe sea swept the sandcastle away; secondary modern schools were swept away
(intr) to extend gracefully or majestically, esp in a wide circlethe plains sweep down to the sea
to search (a body of water) for mines, etc, by dragging
to search (a room, area, etc) electronically to detect spying devices
(tr) to win overwhelmingly, esp in an electionLabour swept the country
cricket to play (a ball) with a sweep
(tr) to propel (a boat) with sweeps
sweep something under the carpet or sweep something under the rug to conceal (something, esp a problem) in the hope that it will be overlooked by others
sweep the board
  1. (in gambling) to win all the cards or money
  2. to win every event or prize in a contest


the act or an instance of sweeping; removal by or as if by a brush or broom
a swift or steady movement, esp in an arcwith a sweep of his arms
the distance, arc, etc, through which something, such as a pendulum, moves
a wide expanse or scopethe sweep of the plains
any curving line or contour
  1. the winning of every trick in a hand of whist
  2. the taking, by pairing, of all exposed cards in cassino
short for sweepstake
cricket a shot in which the ball is hit more or less square on the leg side from a half-kneeling position with the bat held nearly horizontal
  1. a long oar used on an open boat
  2. Australiana person steering a surf boat with such an oar
any of the sails of a windmill
electronics a steady horizontal or circular movement of an electron beam across or around the fluorescent screen of a cathode-ray tube
  1. a rakelike attachment for the front of a motor vehicle for pushing hay into piles
  2. a triangular blade on a cultivator used to cut through roots below the surface of the soil
a curving driveway
mainly British See chimney sweep
another name for swipe (def. 6)
clean sweep
  1. an overwhelming victory or success
  2. a complete change; purgeto make a clean sweep
Derived Formssweepy, adjective

Word Origin for sweep

C13 swepen; related to Old English swāpan, Old Norse sveipa; see swipe, swoop
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 sweep

c.1300, perhaps from a past tense form of Middle English swope "sweep," from Old English swapan "to sweep" (transitive & intransitive); see swoop. Related: Swept; sweeping.


"range, extent," 1670s, from sweep (v.). In reference to police or military actions, it is attested from 1837. Sense of "a winning of all the tricks in a card game" is from 1814 (see sweepstakes); extended to other sports by 1960. As a shortened form of chimney-sweeper, first attested 1796.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with sweep


In addition to the idioms beginning with sweep

  • sweep off someone's feet
  • sweep under the rug

also see:

  • make a clean sweep
  • new broom sweeps clean
  • (sweep) off someone's feet
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.