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swallow definition


This page has 14 definitions of swallow in English. Swallow is a verb and noun. Examples of how to use swallow in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .

See also: Swallow



Etymology 1

From Middle English swolowen, swolwen, swolȝen, swelwen, swelȝen, from Old English swelgan, from Proto-West Germanic *swelgan, from Proto-Germanic *swelganą (to swallow, revel, devour), from Proto-Indo-European *swelk- (to gulp). Cognate with Dutch zwelgen (to revel, carouse, guzzle), German schwelgen (to delight, indulge), Swedish svälja (to swallow, gulp), Icelandic svelgja (to swallow), Old English swillan, swilian (to swill, wash out, gargle). See also swill.

The noun is from Middle English swelwe, swolwe, from Old English swelh, swelg (gulf, chasm) and ġeswelge (gulf, chasm, abyss, whirlpool), both from Proto-West Germanic *swelg, *swalgi, from Proto-Germanic *swelgaz, *swalgiz. Cognate with Old English swiliġe (pit), Scots swelch, swellie, swallie (an abyss in the sea, whirpool), Middle Low German swelch (whirlpool, eddy), Dutch zwelg (gorge, chasm, gullet, throat), Old Norse svelgr (whirlpool, current, stream).

Alternative forms


swallow (third-person singular simple present swallows, present participle swallowing, simple past and past participle swallowed)

  1. (transitive) To cause (food, drink etc.) to pass from the mouth into the stomach; to take into the stomach through the throat. [from 11th c.]
    Synonyms: consume, devour, eat, gulp
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 4, in Moonfleet, London, Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      What the liquor was I do not know, but it was not so strong but that I could swallow it in great gulps and found it less burning than my burning throat.
    • 2011 April 21, Jonathan Jones, The Guardian:
      Clothes are to be worn and food is to be swallowed: they remain trapped in the physical world.
  2. (transitive) To take (something) in so that it disappears; to consume, absorb. [from 13th c.]
    Synonyms: absorb, engulf, incorporate, swallow up; see also Thesaurus:integrate
    • a. 1705, John Locke, “Of the Conduct of the Understanding”, in Posthumous Works of Mr. John Locke: [], London: [] A[wnsham] and J[ohn] Churchill, [], published 1706, →OCLC:
      The necessary provision of the life swallows the greatest part of their time.
    • 2010 October 28, “What are the wild waves saying”, in The Economist:
      His body, like so many others swallowed by the ocean's hungry maw, was never found.
    • 2020 November 11, Drachinifel, 25:13 from the start, in The Salvage of Pearl Harbor Pt 1 - The Smoke Clears[1], archived from the original on 22 October 2022:
      Elsewhere still, they'd managed to find the wreck of a Japanese midget submarine, and so, when the battleships were done being swallowed by the seabed, some efforts were being made to haul this up as well.
  3. (intransitive) To take food down into the stomach; to make the muscular contractions of the oesophagus to achieve this, often taken as a sign of nervousness or strong emotion. [from 18th c.]
    Synonym: gulp
    My throat was so sore that I was unable to swallow.
    • 1979, VC Andrews, Flowers in the Attic:
      She swallowed nervously then, appearing near sick with what she had to say.
  4. (transitive) To accept easily or without questions; to believe, accept. [from 16th c.]
    Synonyms: buy, credit
    • 1920, Romain Rolland, translated by Katherine Miller, Clerambault:
      this humbug was readily swallowed by men who were supposed to be intelligent,
    • 1962 March, “Lessons of the Freeze-up”, in Modern Railways, page 146:
      Most newspapers we saw swallowed whole an S.R. estimate that it would cost £20m to equip the Region with point heaters.
    • 2011 April 22, Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian:
      Americans swallowed his tale because they wanted to.
  5. (intransitive) To engross; to appropriate; usually with up.
    Synonyms: absorb, monopolize, occupy, take over
  6. (transitive) To retract; to recant.
    Synonyms: disavow, take back; see also Thesaurus:recant
    to swallow one's opinions
  7. (transitive) To put up with; to bear patiently or without retaliation.
    Synonyms: endure, live with; see also Thesaurus:tolerate
    to swallow an affront or insult
Derived terms
Terms derived from swallow (verb)


swallow (countable and uncountable, plural swallows)

  1. (archaic) A deep chasm or abyss in the earth.
  2. (archaic) The mouth and throat; that which is used for swallowing; the gullet.
    • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 103:
      The door burst wide open, and he saw nothing but a gaping jaw extending from the threshold up to the lintel. "There is a mouthful for you," said the youngster, and threw the pauper boy into the swallow; "taste that! But let me see now who you are! Perhaps you are an old acquaintance?" And so it was; it was the devil who was about again.
  3. The amount swallowed in one gulp; the act of swallowing.
    He took the aspirin with a single swallow of water.
    • 1978, Tom Reamy, Blind Voices:
      She took a swallow of milk and made a face. "This milk is blinky."
  4. (nautical) The opening in a pulley block between the sheave and shell through which the rope passes.
    • 2008, Danilo Fabbroni, Rigging: Rig Your Boat Right for Racing or Cruising:
      In addition, j-lock shackles can pass through the swallow of a modern genoa track even with a sheet in tension already there, and this is very useful when preparing a sail change on the same tack.
    • 2012, Percy W. Blandford, Practical Knots and Ropework, page 350:
      Blocks are made in a great variety of patterns. All are designed to be used one way. The rope goes through the swallow.
    • 2012, H.G. Hasler, J.K. McLeod, Practical Junk Rig, page 171:
      When specifying blocks, excessive friction is avoided by ensuring (a) that the diameter of the sheave is at least twice the circumference of the rope or six times its diameter (preferably more), and (b) that the 'swallow' of the block is substantially wider than the diameter of the rope, to avoid rubbing against the inside of the cheeks.
  5. (Nigeria) Any of various carbohydrate-based dishes that are swallowed without much chewing.
Derived terms

See also

Etymology 2

A red-rumped swallow

From Middle English swalwe, swalewe, swalowe, from Old English swealwe, from Proto-West Germanic *swalwā, from Proto-Germanic *swalwǭ. Cognate with Danish and Norwegian svale, Dutch zwaluw, German Schwalbe, Swedish svala.


swallow (plural swallows)

  1. A small, migratory bird of the Hirundinidae family with long, pointed, moon-shaped wings and a forked tail which feeds on the wing by catching insects.
  • (bird of Hirundinidae): martin
Derived terms
Related terms
  • (bird of Hirundinidae): martlet (type of feetless bird in heraldry)