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verb (used without object)
  1. to move with or make a sibilant sound, as a slender rod cutting sharply through the air or as small waves washing on the shore.
  2. to rustle, as silk.
  3. to move or behave in an exaggeratedly effeminate manner.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to flourish, whisk, etc., with a swishing movement or sound: to swish a cane.
  2. to bring, take, cut, etc., with such a movement or sound: to swish off the tops of plants with a cane.
  3. to flog or whip.
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  1. a swishing movement or sound.
  2. a stock or rod for flogging or a stroke with this.
  3. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to an effeminate male homosexual.
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  1. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. swishy(def 2).
  2. Chiefly British Informal. stylishly elegant; fashionable.
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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. 2018

Related Words for swishes

splash, lick, grill, sear, crackle, fizzle, roast, sputter, broil, fly, flap, twirl, swing, wield, brandish, twist, shake, flutter, flit, whir

Examples from the Web for swishes

Historical Examples of swishes

  • When an elephant plucks off a branch and swishes his flanks, and thus keeps away insects, he is using a tool.

    This Simian World

    Clarence Day

  • The doctor himself gave the signal to start, and at the word they darted with two “swishes” into the water.

    Parkhurst Boys

    Talbot Baines Reed

  • The swishes became more frequent, the returnings almost doubling on their track.

    Edge of the Jungle

    William Beebe

  • I beat the air with my stick, and it says "hoo" as it swishes; whenever I think I deserve it, I sit down and give myself food.

  • It swishes fast round gravelly bends into large eddying pools where in their season the salmon and peal lie.

British Dictionary definitions for swishes


  1. to move with or make or cause to move with or make a whistling or hissing sound
  2. (intr) (esp of fabrics) to rustle
  3. (tr) slang, rare to whip; flog
  4. (tr foll by off) to cut with a swishing blow
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  1. a hissing or rustling sound or movement
  2. a rod for flogging or a blow from such a rod
  3. US slang an effeminate male homosexual
  4. a W African building material composed of mortar and mud or laterite, or more recently of cement and earth
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  1. informal, mainly British fashionable; smart
  2. US slang effeminate and homosexual
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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 swishes



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

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper