Origin of swell

before 900; Middle English swellen (v.), Old English swellan; cognate with Dutch zwellen, German schwellen, Old Norse svella; akin to Gothic ufswalleins pride
Related formsre·swell, verb, re·swelled, re·swelled or re·swol·len, re·swell·ing.un·der·swell, verb (used without object), un·der·swelled, un·der·swelled or un·der·swol·len, un·der·swell·ing.un·der·swell, nounun·swelled, adjective

Synonyms for swell

1. distend, expand. 5. protrude. 10. inflate, expand. 17. swelling. 18. bulge. 19. billow. 27, 28. grand.

Antonyms for swell

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

Examples from the Web for swelled

Contemporary Examples of swelled

Historical Examples of swelled

  • Miss Wardwell swelled with importance and let her superior ask her twice.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • The pool that we saw that night has swelled into a lake,—English blood and American,—no!

    Old News

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Some called him Tom Sawyer the Traveler, and that just swelled him up fit to bust.

    Tom Sawyer Abroad

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • The sixteen States over which Washington presided had swelled to eighteen.

    The Nation in a Nutshell

    George Makepeace Towle

  • And it swelled into such a laugh that I saw the police feel for their clubs.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

British Dictionary definitions for swelled


verb swells, swelling, swelled, swollen or swelled

to grow or cause to grow in size, esp as a result of internal pressureCompare contract (def. 1), contract (def. 3)
to expand or cause to expand at a particular point or above the surrounding level; protrude
to grow or cause to grow in size, amount, intensity, or degreethe party is swelling with new recruits
to puff or be puffed up with pride or another emotion
(intr) (of seas or lakes) to rise in waves
(intr) to well up or overflow
(tr) to make (a musical phrase) increase gradually in volume and then diminish


  1. the undulating movement of the surface of the open sea
  2. a succession of waves or a single large wave
a swelling or being swollen; expansion
an increase in quantity or degree; inflation
a bulge; protuberance
a gentle hill
informal a person very fashionably dressed
informal a man of high social or political standing
music a crescendo followed by an immediate diminuendo
Also called: swell organ music
  1. a set of pipes on an organ housed in a box (swell box) fitted with a shutter operated by a pedal, which can be opened or closed to control the volume
  2. the manual on an organ controlling thisCompare choir (def. 4), great (def. 21)


informal stylish or grand
slang excellent; first-class

Word Origin for swell

Old English swellan; related to Old Norse svella, Old Frisian swella, German schwellen
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 swelled



Old English swellan "grow or make bigger" (past tense sweall, past participle swollen), from Proto-Germanic *swelnanan (cf. Old Saxon swellan, Old Norse svella, Old Frisian swella, Middle Dutch swellen, Dutch zwellen, Old High German swellan, German schwellen), of unknown origin.



early 13c., "a morbid swelling," from swell (v.). In reference to a rise of the sea, it is attested from c.1600. The meaning "wealthy, elegant person" is first recorded 1786; hence the adjectival meaning "fashionably dressed or equipped" (1810), both from the notion of "puffed-up, pompous" behavior. The sense of "good, excellent" first occurs 1897, and as a stand-alone expression of satisfaction it is recorded from 1930 in American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper