Origin of swish

First recorded in 1750–60; imitative
Related formsswish·er, nounswish·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for swish

Contemporary Examples of swish

Historical Examples of swish

  • We heard the swish of the boughs, heavy with new snow, and then silence.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • Obediently he wheeled to the left, and I caught the swish of his sword as it left the scabbard.

    The Suitors of Yvonne

    Raphael Sabatini

  • His ears, strained to listen, had caught the swish of a woman's gown.

    St. Martin's Summer

    Rafael Sabatini

  • I sprang aft: but in the roar of wind and swish and thud of sea could not hear him.

  • They did as they were bidden, and then the little man said, “Swash, swish!”

    Irish Fairy Tales

    Edmond Leamy

British Dictionary definitions for swish



to move with or make or cause to move with or make a whistling or hissing sound
(intr) (esp of fabrics) to rustle
(tr) slang, rare to whip; flog
(tr foll by off) to cut with a swishing blow


a hissing or rustling sound or movement
a rod for flogging or a blow from such a rod
US slang an effeminate male homosexual
a W African building material composed of mortar and mud or laterite, or more recently of cement and earth


informal, mainly British fashionable; smart
US slang effeminate and homosexual
Derived Formsswisher, nounswishing, adjectiveswishingly, adverb

Word Origin for swish

C18: of imitative origin
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 swish

1756, probably imitative of the sound made by something brushing against or through something. Related: Swished; swishing.


1820, from swish (v.); sense of "effeminate homosexual" is 1930s in homosexual slang, probably from notion of mincing motion.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper