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 swishing

Historical Examples of swishing

  • Neither of them spoke, and the only sound was the swishing of the paddle.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • But his oil, all day long and all night too, was swishing in its 96tanks on the course to Zanzibar.

    Journeys to Bagdad

    Charles S. Brooks

  • I shouldn't mind the—the swishing so much if I'd done anything.

  • Helen's voice sang above their footsteps and the swishing of her dress.

    Moor Fires

    E. H. (Emily Hilda) Young

  • The heavy clouds and the swishing rain held no gloom for me.

    The Love Story of Abner Stone

    Edwin Carlile Litsey

British Dictionary definitions for swishing



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 swishing



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