verb (used without object)
  1. to move or swing to and fro, as something fixed at one end or resting on a support.
  2. to move or incline to one side or in a particular direction.
  3. to incline in opinion, sympathy, tendency, etc.: She swayed toward conservatism.
  4. to fluctuate or vacillate, as in opinion: His ideas swayed this way and that.
  5. to wield power; exercise rule.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to move to and fro or to incline from side to side.
  2. to cause to move to one side or in a particular direction.
  3. Nautical. to hoist or raise (a yard, topmast, or the like) (usually followed by up).
  4. to cause to fluctuate or vacillate.
  5. to cause (the mind, emotions, etc., or a person) to incline or turn in a specified way; influence.
  6. to cause to swerve, as from a purpose or a course of action: He swayed them from their plan.
  7. to dominate; direct.
  8. to wield, as a weapon or scepter.
  9. to rule; govern.
  1. the act of swaying; swaying movement.
  2. rule; dominion: He held all Asia in his sway.
  3. dominating power or influence: Many voters were under his sway.

Origin of sway

1300–50; (verb) Middle English sweyen < Old Norse sveigja “to bend, sway” (transitive); (noun) Middle English, derivative of the verb
Related formssway·a·ble, adjectivesway·er, nounsway·ing·ly, adverbself-sway, nounun·sway·a·ble, adjectiveun·sway·ing, adjective

Synonyms for sway

1. wave. 3. lean, bend, tend.

Synonym study

1. See swing1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unswaying

Historical Examples of unswaying

  • The place was getting very full of sooty smoke from the torch, in which the unswaying flame burned blood-red without a flicker.

    Lord Jim

    Joseph Conrad

  • His life was led by the unswaying principles of an earnest piety and high morals.


    Victor Nilsson

British Dictionary definitions for unswaying


  1. (usually intr) to swing or cause to swing to and fro
  2. (usually intr) to lean or incline or cause to lean or incline to one side or in different directions in turn
  3. (usually intr) to vacillate or cause to vacillate between two or more opinions
  4. to be influenced or swerve or influence or cause to swerve to or from a purpose or opinion
  5. (tr) nautical to hoist (a yard, mast, or other spar)
  6. archaic, or poetic to rule or wield power (over)
  7. (tr) archaic to wield (a weapon)
  1. control; power
  2. a swinging or leaning movement
  3. archaic dominion; governing authority
  4. hold sway to be master; reign
Derived Formsswayable, adjectiveswayer, nounswayful, adjective

Word Origin for sway

C16: probably from Old Norse sveigja to bend; related to Dutch zwaaien, Low German swājen
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 unswaying



c.1300, "to go, glide, move," probably from Old Norse sveigja "to bend, swing, give way," from Proto-Germanic *swaigijanan and related to swag (v.) and swing. The sense of "swing, wave, waver" is first recorded c.1500. Related: Swayed; swaying. The noun meaning "controlling influence" (to be under the sway of) is 1510s, from a transitive sense of the verb in Dutch and other languages. The verb in this sense is recorded in English from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with unswaying


see hold sway.

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