noun (used with a singular or plural verb)

Slang. sweep2.



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

to move or remove (dust, dirt, etc.) with or as if with a broom, brush, or the like.
to clear or clean (a floor, room, chimney, etc.) of dirt, litter, or the like, by means of a broom or brush.
to drive or carry by some steady force, as of a wind or wave: The wind swept the snow into drifts.
to pass or draw (something) over a surface with a continuous stroke or movement: The painter swept a brush over his canvas.
to make (a path, opening, etc.) by clearing a space with or as if with a broom.
to clear (a surface, place, etc.) of something on or in it (often followed by of): to sweep a sea of enemy ships.
to pass over (a surface, region, etc.) with a steady, driving movement or unimpeded course, as winds, floods, etc.: sandstorms sweeping the plains.
to search (an area or building) thoroughly: Soldiers swept the town, looking for deserters.
to pass the gaze, eyes, etc., over (a region, area, etc.): His eyes swept the countryside.
to direct (the eyes, gaze, etc.) over a region, surface, or the like: He swept his eyes over the countryside.
to examine electronically, as to search for a hidden listening device.
to win a complete or overwhelming victory in (a contest): Johnson swept the presidential election of 1964.
to win (every game, round, hand, etc., of a series of contests): The Yankees swept the three-game series.
  1. to pass the fingers or bow over (a musical instrument, its strings or keys, etc.), as in playing.
  2. to bring forth (music) thus.

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

to sweep a floor, room, etc., with or as if with a broom: The new broom sweeps well.
to move steadily and strongly or swiftly (usually followed by along, down, by, into, etc.).
to move or pass in a swift but stately manner: Proudly, she swept from the room.
to move, pass, or extend in a continuous course, especially a wide curve or circuit: His glance swept around the room.
to conduct an underwater search by towing a drag under the surface of the water.
Aeronautics. (of an airfoil or its leading or trailing edge) to project from the fuselage at an angle rearward or forward of a line perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft.


the act of sweeping, especially a moving, removing, clearing, etc., by or as if by the use of a broom: to give the house a good sweep.
the steady, driving motion or swift onward course of something moving with force or without interruption: the sweep of the wind and the waves.
an examination by electronic detection devices of a room or building to determine the presence of hidden listening devices.
a swinging or curving movement or stroke, as of the arm, a weapon, an oar, etc.
reach, range, or compass, as of something sweeping about: the sweep of a road about a marsh.
a continuous extent or stretch: a broad sweep of sand.
a curving, especially widely or gently curving, line, form, part, or mass.
matter removed or gathered by sweeping.
Also called well sweep. a leverlike device for raising or lowering a bucket in a well.
a large oar used in small vessels, sometimes to assist the rudder or to propel the craft.
an overwhelming victory in a contest.
a winning of all the games, rounds, hands, prizes, etc., in a contest by one contestant.
Football. end run.
one of the sails of a windmill.
Agriculture. any of the detachable triangular blades on a cultivator.
Chiefly British. a person employed to clean by sweeping, especially a chimney sweeper.
  1. Whist.the winning of all the tricks in a hand.Compare slam2(def 1).
  2. Casino.a pairing or combining, and hence taking, of all the cards on the board.
Physics. an irreversible process tending towards thermal equilibrium.

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 sweeps

Contemporary Examples of sweeps

Historical Examples of sweeps

  • Others of the crew had scrambled to their feet and ran to help those at the sweeps.

  • It appeared to have run aground, and they were trying to push it off with the sweeps.

  • I soon reached the beckets of the sweeps, and found four in them.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • I could not swim a stroke, and it crossed my mind to get one of the sweeps to keep me afloat.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • This caused the other ends to slide, and all the sweeps got away from me.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for sweeps


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 sweeps



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 sweeps


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.