[ swel-ter ]
/ ˈswɛl tər /

verb (used without object)

to suffer from oppressive heat.

verb (used with object)

to oppress with heat.
Archaic. to exude, as venom.


a sweltering condition.

Origin of swelter

1375–1425; late Middle English swelt(e)ren (v.), equivalent to swelt(en) to be overcome with heat (Old English sweltan to die; cognate with Old Norse svelta, Gothic swiltan) + -eren -er6
Related formsun·swel·tered, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for swelter

British Dictionary definitions for swelter


/ (ˈswɛltə) /


(intr) to suffer under oppressive heat, esp to sweat and feel faint
(tr) archaic to exude (venom)
(tr) rare to cause to suffer under oppressive heat


a sweltering condition (esp in the phrase in a swelter)
oppressive humid heat

Word Origin for swelter

C15 swelten, from Old English sweltan to die; related to Old Norse svelta to starve, Old High German swelzan to burn with passion; see sultry
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 swelter



c.1400, frequentative of swelten "be faint (especially with heat)," late 14c., from Old English sweltan "to die," from Proto-Germanic *swel- (cf. Old Saxon sweltan "to die," Old Norse svelta "to put to death, starve," Gothic sviltan "to die"), originally "to burn slowly," hence "to be overcome with heat or fever;" also the source of Old English swelan "to burn," from PIE root *swel- (2) "to shine, beam" (see Selene). For specialization of words meaning "to die," cf. starve. Related: Sweltered; sweltering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper