the act of a person or thing that swims.
the skill or technique of a person who swims.
the sport of swimming.


Origin of swimming

before 1000; Middle English; Old English swimmende (adj.). See swim, -ing2, -ing1
Related formsswim·ming·ness, nounnon·swim·ming, adjective



verb (used without object), swam, swum, swim·ming.

to move in water by movements of the limbs, fins, tail, etc.
to float on the surface of water or some other liquid.
to move, rest, or be suspended in air as if swimming in water.
to move, glide, or go smoothly over a surface.
to be immersed or steeped in or overflowing or flooded with a liquid: eyes swimming with tears.
to be dizzy or giddy; seem to whirl: My head began to swim.

verb (used with object), swam, swum, swim·ming.

to move along in or cross (a body of water) by swimming: to swim a lake.
to perform (a particular stroke) in swimming: to swim a sidestroke.
to cause to swim or float, as on a stream.
to furnish with sufficient water to swim or float.


an act, instance, or period of swimming.
a motion as of swimming; a smooth, gliding movement.

Origin of swim

before 900; Middle English swimmen, Old English swimman; cognate with Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen, Old Norse svimma
Related formsswim·ma·ble, adjectiveswim·mer, nounnon·swim·mer, nounout·swim, verb, out·swam, out·swum, out·swim·ming.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for swimming

Contemporary Examples of swimming

Historical Examples of swimming

British Dictionary definitions for swimming


verb swims, swimming, swam or swum

(intr) to move along in water, etc, by means of movements of the body or parts of the body, esp the arms and legs, or (in the case of fish) tail and fins
(tr) to cover (a distance or stretch of water) in this way
(tr) to compete in (a race) in this way
(intr) to be supported by and on a liquid; float
(tr) to use (a particular stroke) in swimming
(intr) to move smoothly, usually through air or over a surface
(intr) to reel or seem to reelmy head swam; the room swam around me
(intr; often foll by in or with) to be covered or flooded with water or other liquid
(intr often foll by in) to be liberally supplied (with)he's swimming in money
(tr) to cause to float or swim
(tr) to provide (something) with water deep enough to float in
swim against the tide or swim against the stream to resist prevailing opinion
swim with the tide or swim with the stream to conform to prevailing opinion


the act, an instance, or period of swimming
any graceful gliding motion
a condition of dizziness; swoon
a pool in a river good for fishing
in the swim informal fashionable or active in social or political activities
Derived Formsswimmable, adjectiveswimmer, nounswimming, noun, adjective

Word Origin for swim

Old English swimman; related to Old Norse svima, German schwimmen, Gothic swumsl pond, Norwegian svamla to paddle
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 swimming

verbal noun from swim (v.). Swimming hole is from 1867; swimming pool is from 1881.



Old English swimman "to move in or on the water, float" (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, past participle swummen), from Proto-Germanic *swemjanan (cf. Old Saxon and Old High German swimman, Old Norse svimma, Dutch zwemmen, German schwimmen), from PIE root *swem- "to be in motion."

The root is sometimes said to be restricted to Germanic, but possible cognates are Welsh chwyf "motion," Old Irish do-sennaim "I hunt," Lithuanian sundyti "to chase." For the usual Indo-European word, see natatorium. Sense of "reel or move unsteadily" first recorded 1670s; of the head or brain, from 1702. Figurative phrase sink or swim is attested from mid-15c., often with reference to ordeals of suspected witches.



1540s, "the clear part of any liquid" (above the sediment), from swim (v.). Meaning "part of a river or stream frequented by fish" (and hence fishermen) is from 1828, and is probably the source of the figurative meaning "the current of the latest affairs or events" (1869).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with swimming


In addition to the idioms beginning with swim

  • swim against the current
  • swim with the tide

also see:

  • in the swim
  • sink or swim
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.