verb (used without object)

to move around or along with a whirling motion; whirl; eddy.
to be dizzy or giddy, as the head.

verb (used with object)

to cause to whirl; twist.


Origin of swirl

1375–1425; late Middle English (north) < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian svirla; cognate with Dutch zwirrelen to whirl, German (dial.) schwirrlen to totter; all < a root *swir- (whence Danish svirre to whirl, German schwirren to whir) + -l- frequentative suffix
Related formsswirl·ing·ly, adverbout·swirl, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for swirl

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

Examples from the Web for swirl

Contemporary Examples of swirl

Historical Examples of swirl

  • Then a swirl of other Mercutians anxious to get at the Earthman eddied him out of view.

    Slaves of Mercury

    Nat Schachner

  • There was a swirl of snow over the fields and the line where sky and earth met could not be seen.

    Master and Man

    Leo Tolstoy

  • It must be glorious to be in the rush and swirl of all this splendid effort, whatever comes of it!

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • Pete shut the door of the bar-room, and then the wind was heard to swirl through the porch.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • This was sufficient recommendation for Henry, in the swirl of his agitation, to loose his tongue.


    Holworthy Hall

British Dictionary definitions for swirl



to turn or cause to turn in a twisting spinning fashion
(intr) to be dizzy; swimmy head was swirling


a whirling or spinning motion, esp in water
a whorl; curl
the act of swirling or stirring
dizzy confusion
Derived Formsswirling, adjectiveswirlingly, adverbswirly, adjective

Word Origin for swirl

C15: probably from Dutch zwirrelen; related to Norwegian svirla, German schwirren
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 swirl

early 15c., "whirlpool, eddy," originally Scottish, perhaps related to dialectal Norwegian svirla or Dutch zwirrelen "to whirl." The meaning "whirling movement" is from 1818.


1510s, with an isolated instance from 14c.; from swirl (n.). Related: Swirled; swirling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper