Definition of swim in English:


verbswimming, swum, swims, swam

[no object]
  • 1Propel the body through water by using the limbs, or (in the case of a fish or other aquatic animal) by using fins, tail, or other bodily movement.

    ‘they swam ashore’
    ‘he swims thirty lengths twice a week’
    • ‘The water was clear and you could see the fish swimming along the current.’
    • ‘Mercury pollutes water and thus the fish that swim in it, which involves another federal agency.’
    • ‘The aquatic animals can't swim in shallow water areas.’
    • ‘He faced another type of water hazard when he swam 331 lengths of a pool.’
    • ‘Most favored activities are cycling on a stationary bicycle, brisk walking, swimming, and water aquatics.’
    • ‘A pond sat in the midst of all this beauty, and multicolored koi fish swam within its blue waters.’
    • ‘Crocodiles swim with back-and-forth movements of their tail.’
    • ‘Many of the men crawl towards the rails, ready to jump into the water to swim ashore.’
    • ‘Light was coming from underneath the water, and it illuminated the white-pink fish that swam around.’
    • ‘The water was a clear blue and they could see fish swimming around.’
    • ‘Fish swam by her body, curious and their fins tickled her legs.’
    • ‘There was a car on the bottom of a large body of water and fish were swimming around it.’
    • ‘They swim under water by propelling themselves with their wings, and may dive as deep as 60 feet below the surface.’
    • ‘Richard was tossed into the sea and spent two hours in the freezing water trying to swim ashore.’
    • ‘The nets indiscriminately trap fish, dolphins, and other animals that swim into them.’
    • ‘I do not know of a single species of fish that swims in that manner.’
    • ‘He swam breaststroke for the Scottish team from the age of 18 to 22.’
    • ‘I swim 20 lengths of the baths every second day.’
    • ‘A drill to develop this body position involves swimming with fins and a snorkel.’
    • ‘I sat back to spend some time looking into the shallow water for any fish swimming under or nearby the bridge.’
    bathe, go swimming, take a dip, dip, splash around
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    1. 1.1with object Cross (a particular stretch of water) by swimming.
      ‘she swam the Channel’
      • ‘They are believed to be the first women's team from Africa to swim the famous stretch.’
      • ‘This was to be the first woman to swim the English Channel.’
      • ‘Still, the final 100 meters should be swum strategically.’
      • ‘Marcus Hooper, the youngest person to complete the swim, swam the channel in 1979 at age 12.’
      • ‘He dove under the water again, to swim the rest of the way to the bridge.’
      • ‘She was first to swim the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia.’
      • ‘You can't swim the Amazon without the current and the river's help.’
    2. 1.2 Float on or at the surface of a liquid.
      ‘bubbles swam on the surface’
      • ‘I'm one of those people that think good chili should have at least a little grease swimming on top of it.’
      • ‘My only complaint is the excessive amount of grease swimming on top of the cheese.’
    3. 1.3with object Cause to float or move across water.
      ‘the Russians were able to swim their infantry carriers across’
      • ‘The boys would find the logs in the woods around the lake, cut them to the right sizes, and then swim them over to the raft and attach them.’
      • ‘It would be impossible to round up all the stock and swim them across the turbulent Snake River.’
      • ‘I could put the rest of the headlamps one by one in my dry bag and swim them across.’
  • 2Be immersed in or covered with liquid.

    ‘mashed potatoes swimming in gravy’
    • ‘I looked over at her to see her blue eyes swimming with tears.’
    • ‘It's an interesting dish, where the fish, cut into chunks, swims in a pool of lime juice among diced onions and tomatoes.’
    • ‘It was swimming in a rich, wine-based sauce - too much liquid for my taste, but perfect for his.’
    • ‘I was not thrilled to find the chicken sandwich swimming in gravy.’
    • ‘I wouldn't change a thing in my soup of the day, which starred a little heap of veggies swimming in a light chicken broth, slightly spiked with ginger.’
    • ‘The feral pigs were almost swimming in mud that was covered in slimy green algae.’
    • ‘The potatoes were swimming in a delicious thick creamy mayonnaise.’
    • ‘It was certainly not swimming in a pool of oil and was covered with a fair enough amount of batter that it was still possible to taste the squid within.’
    be saturated in, be drenched in, be soaked in, be steeped in, be immersed in, be covered in, be full of
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  • 3Appear to reel or whirl before one's eyes.

    ‘Emily rubbed her eyes as the figures swam before her eyes’
    • ‘In return, a large, heavy hand crashed into his skull and sent him sprawling, the world swimming dizzily around him.’
    • ‘Blurred, gray-blue images swam before his eyes.’
    • ‘The world swam dizzily around him and all of the color leached out of his vision.’
    • ‘Black spots swam before her eyes and she felt herself slipping.’
    • ‘Two tender, anxious, green-gold eyes swam dizzily in her swiftly failing vision.’
    • ‘She was dizzy. The world swam before her eyes and rocked like the boat.’
    • ‘Suddenly the room began to swim before her eyes.’
    • ‘Images of people swam in and out of focus.’
    • ‘A pair of lilac colored eyes swam dizzily in his unsteady vision.’
    go round, go round and round, whirl, spin, revolve, gyrate, swirl, twirl, turn, wheel
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    1. 3.1 Experience a dizzily confusing sensation in one's head.
      ‘the drink made his head swim’
      • ‘Her back ached, her feet were sore and her head swam as if in a dream.’
      • ‘Her vision blurred and her head swam, but she stayed upright.’
      • ‘Her head swam in confusion along with a massive headache that pulsed behind her eyes.’
      • ‘Her mind still swam with the confusion of the dream and she knew she had to find out what it meant.’
      • ‘Every time she made any sudden movements her head swam like it was filled with water.’

nounPlural swims

  • 1An act or period of swimming.

    ‘we went for a swim in the river’
    • ‘First is a swim in the pool and then it's on to Windermere to master the art of canoeing and kayaking in the lake.’
    • ‘There were outstanding swims all across the board.’
    • ‘We were both in the best shape of our lives, and this swim would have been easy.’
    • ‘Keeping the body balanced and in line during swims is something that every athlete can work on and improve.’
    • ‘How pleased were you with your swims at the trials?’
    • ‘We finished with a leisurely swim back to the Scuba Park, eyeballing the marine life on the way.’
    • ‘But, starting right now, you can begin trying to decrease strokes in your all of swims.’
    • ‘At Rs.250 per person, one can also have a swim in the outdoor swimming pool and enjoy the cadence of the Filipino band.’
    • ‘The unique challenge is expected to attract major corporate sponsorship and media attention, both in the lead-up period and during the swim.’
    • ‘She had just finished a refreshing swim in the pool.’
    • ‘On a Saturday morning, you go to the pool for your weekly swim.’
    • ‘We also take a look at some possibilities for additional events should the team members get extra swims.’
    • ‘I really wanted to have a swim in my own swimming pool on my birthday.’
    • ‘When you have a cold or a temperature or even a flu you may wonder if it is really necessary to stay in bed or if you could go for a swim.’
    • ‘The lunchtime swim on Christmas Day proved to be a great success with a turnout of approximately 50 swimmers.’
    • ‘Then they came back and had good swims later in the meet.’
    • ‘Were you disappointed with your swims at the Olympics?’
    • ‘We eventually left and got back to the hotel about 3am and had a quick swim in the hotel pool which shuts at 10 pm.’
    • ‘Thereafter life consisted of lazy swims in a pristine pool atop a hill looking over to North Africa.’
    • ‘He also loved going to the pool for regular swims.’
    swim, bathe, dive, plunge, splash, paddle
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  • 2A pool in a river that is a particularly good spot for fishing.

    ‘he landed two 5 lb chub from the same swim’
    • ‘With so few anglers, and almost no bank anglers, there are few open swims.’
    • ‘Again Pete and I were in adjoining swims but this time on the smaller lake, much shallower and easier to stalk.’
    • ‘Try to avoid the corners of the lake when choosing a swim as in my experience they are not good in the long term.’
    • ‘There were obviously carp present in the swim which was most encouraging.’
    • ‘With so many anglers fishing the lower river it's often a job to find a decent swim.’
    • ‘There is a system of firm paths giving access to nearly half the fishing stations and easy access to the remaining swims in dry weather.’
    • ‘The new swim was on the other side of the river and if we hadn't been shown its whereabouts would never have guessed its existence.’
    • ‘I baited up another spot on the other side of the swim before retying up the second rod with a new rig.’
    • ‘Two cricket balls of mashed bread groundbait were introduced into the top of the swim.’
    • ‘The road forks just before you reach the river and the best swims are to the right beyond the landing stage.’
    • ‘The swims on the lake and river are all well maintained and cared for.’
    • ‘I selected a swim near the first spot that I had tried and again proceeded to fish a long line.’
    • ‘Pick a swim where the water flows off gravel and weed with depth of between four and six feet.’
    • ‘They picked up a few odd pellets that I had placed in the swim.’
    • ‘The first thing to do on arriving is to get a stream of bait going into the swim.’
    • ‘This called for the use of a bait rocket to get large amounts of bait into the swim.’
    • ‘The challenge is more about positioning bait in uncastable swims rather than baiting up.’
    • ‘Within ten minutes I had to retrieve my tackle, after a load of rubbish dragged the bait out of the swim.’
    • ‘The main house is visible down a long avenue of trees from some swims in the lake.’
    • ‘If you look at flowing swims in a river, you can get the wrong impression of the pace.’


In standard English the past tense of swim is swam (she swam to the shore) and the past participle is swum (she had never swum there before). In the 17th and 18th centuries swam and swum were used interchangeably for the past participle, but this is not acceptable in standard modern English


  • in the swim

    • Involved in or aware of current affairs or events.

      • ‘Hopefully by Monday I should be back in the swim of things!’
      • ‘I loved being part of the madness of the rush hour commute - it made me feel in the swim, connected to the rest of the world, part of everyday society.’
      • ‘It's good to be back in the swim of things!’
      • ‘Hearing aids will put you back in the swim again.’
  • swim with (or against) the tide

    • Act in accordance with (or against) the prevailing opinion or tendency.

      • ‘We also seemed to be swimming against the tide of contemporary trends in the publication of reference works.’
      • ‘Despite swimming against the tide, he has never lost his youthful energy.’
      • ‘He was just happy to swim with the tide, and confident that when opportunity came knocking, he would know.’
      • ‘What's certain is that Baltimore is swimming against the tide.’
      • ‘One patron of the society said: ‘We've been swimming against the tide for years now.’’
      • ‘They are swimming against the tide even amongst their own.’
      • ‘Since starting out in dance music in the mid-1990s, Costello has always seemed to be swimming against the tide of the local scene.’
      • ‘Yet once again she was swimming against the tide.’
      • ‘Maybe, just maybe, I am swimming against the tide.’
      • ‘‘Instead of swimming against the tide, there should be an attempt to make maximum advantage of it,’ he says.’


Old English swimman (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zwemmen and German schwimmen.