verb (used without object)
  1. to sweep through the air, as a bird or a bat, especially down upon prey.
  2. to come down upon something in a sudden, swift attack (often followed by down and on or upon): The army swooped down on the town.
verb (used with object)
  1. to take, lift, scoop up, or remove with or as with one sweeping motion (often followed by up, away, or off): He swooped her up in his arms.
  1. an act or instance of swooping; a sudden, swift descent.
  1. at/in one fell swoop, all at once or all together, as if by one blow: The quake flattened the houses at one fell swoop.

Origin of swoop

1535–45; variant (with close ō) of Middle English swopen, Old English swāpan to sweep1; cognate with German schweifen

Synonyms for swoop

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for swooping

pounce, dive, plummet, rush, plunge, sweep, stoop, slide, fall

Examples from the Web for swooping

Contemporary Examples of swooping

Historical Examples of swooping

  • The general tenor of the sound was a kind of swooping, batlike whine.

    Pagan Passions

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • "Give it to me this instant," cried Winnie, swooping upon the small girl.


    Josephine Lawrence

  • With a great sweeping, swooping heave Mittie May made the last leap.

    Sundry Accounts

    Irvin S. Cobb

  • He was gone, with the swooping suddenness of his appearance.

    The Thing from the Lake

    Eleanor M. Ingram

  • The water was whirling, whirling, the whole black night was swooping in rings.

    The Rainbow

    D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence

British Dictionary definitions for swooping


  1. (intr; usually foll by down, on, or upon) to sweep or pounce suddenly
  2. (tr; often foll by up, away, or off) to seize or scoop suddenly
  1. the act of swooping
  2. a swift descent

Word Origin for swoop

Old English swāpan to sweep; related to Old High German sweifan to swing around, Old Norse sveipa to throw
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 swooping



1560s, "to move or walk in a stately manner," apparently from a dialectal survival of Old English swapan "to sweep, brandish, dash," from Proto-Germanic *swaipanan, from PIE root *swei- "to swing, bend, to turn." Meaning "pounce upon with a sweeping movement" first recorded 1630s. Spelling with -oo- may have been influenced by Scottish and northern England dialectal soop "to sweep," from Old Norse sopa "to sweep." Related: Swooped; swooping.



1540s, from swoop (v.). Phrase one fell swoop is from Shakespeare.

Oh, Hell-Kite! All? What, All my pretty Chickens, and their Damme, At one fell swoope? ["Macbeth," IV.iii.219]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with swooping


see one fell swoop.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.