verb (used without object), swerved, swerv·ing.

to turn aside abruptly in movement or direction; deviate suddenly from the straight or direct course.

verb (used with object), swerved, swerv·ing.

to cause to turn aside: Nothing could swerve him.


an act of swerving; turning aside.

Origin of swerve

1175–1225; Middle English swerven (v.); Old English sweorfan to rub, file; cognate with Dutch zwerven to rove, Old High German swerban, Old Norse sverfa to file, Gothic afswairban to wipe off
Related formsun·swerved, adjectiveun·swerv·ing, adjectiveun·swerv·ing·ly, adverbun·swerv·ing·ness, noun

Synonym study

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

Examples from the Web for swerve

Contemporary Examples of swerve

Historical Examples of swerve

  • In a swerve he almost stopped, every muscle of his big body trembling in affright.


    W. A. Fraser

  • It has fixed rules which are the props of order, and will not swerve or bend in extreme cases.

  • The Arcadians did not swerve: in compact order they waited impassively.



  • And even now it was held to be undignified to swerve from that doctrine.

    England and Germany

    Emile Joseph Dillon

  • He would not swerve from the line of duty which he had marked out.

British Dictionary definitions for swerve



to turn or cause to turn aside, usually sharply or suddenly, from a course
(tr) to avoid (a person or event)


the act, instance, or degree of swerving
Derived Formsswervable, adjectiveswerver, noun

Word Origin for swerve

Old English sweorfan to scour; related to Old High German swerban to wipe off, Gothic afswairban to wipe off, Old Norse sverfa to file
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 swerve

early 13c., "to depart, make off;" early 14c., "to turn aside, deviate from a straight course," probably from Old English sweorfan "to rub, scour, file" (but sense development is difficult to trace), from Proto-Germanic *swerbanan (cf Old Norse sverfa "to scour, file," Old Saxon swebran "to wipe off"), from PIE root *swerbh-. Cognate words in other Germanic languages (cf. Old Frisian swerva "to creep," Middle Dutch swerven "to rove, stray") suggests the sense of "go off, turn aside" may have existed in Old English, though unrecorded. Related: Swerved; swerving.


1741, from swerve (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper