Definition of swirl in English:



[no object]
  • 1Move in a twisting or spiralling pattern.

    ‘the smoke was swirling around him’
    figurative ‘a flood of swirling emotions’
    • ‘The air swirled with dust and smoke and the smell of petrol and spicy sausages.’
    • ‘Shawn's whole world swirled, and twisted, making him want to throw up, but he stayed conscious.’
    • ‘The smoke crept upwards and swirled in the column of light.’
    • ‘Dark sunglasses graced her face as her black duster jacket swirled in the wind.’
    • ‘They quickly got higher and higher in the air as their clothes swirled in the wind.’
    • ‘The sun shone through the canopy of leaves, and the wind made the leaves swirl around her.’
    • ‘I made my way over to the sliding patio door and forced it open, allowing a blast of hideously cold wind and snow to swirl around the kitchen.’
    • ‘Local residents told protestors how they woke to find smoke from the blaze swirling through their homes.’
    • ‘My blood was swirling in a spiral pattern, before finally mixing with the water and turning it red.’
    • ‘Clouds began to swirl above and the wind picked up.’
    • ‘I could see a genuine look of concern, and all my emotions seemed to swirl up inside me.’
    • ‘This fish had other ideas, it twisted and swirled but slowly inch by inch it came to the landing net.’
    • ‘Waves broke against the dark rocks to her left, and foamed and swirled like a jacuzzi.’
    • ‘When wind comes up and fans the fire, the smoke swirls fast and strong.’
    • ‘Wind began to swirl around her, picking up speed.’
    • ‘An icy blast of wind from the Arctic swirled down the hillside and froze the skin on his face.’
    • ‘Its silvery surface rippled and swirled on occasion like a quiet mountain pool.’
    • ‘At first he saw nothing but darkness, swirling and spinning around in front of him.’
    • ‘Suddenly the fog moved, swirling to form the shape of a man's head.’
    • ‘Dust swirled around with the wind, forming intricate patterns among the rubble.’
    whirl, eddy, billow, spiral, wind, churn, swish, agitate, circulate, revolve, spin, twist, gyrate
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object Cause to move in a twisting or spiralling pattern.
      ‘swirl a little cream into the soup’
      • ‘Put the heat on medium-low, put a few teaspoons of olive oil in the stockpot and swirl it around to coat the bottom, let it warm for a moment and then add the leeks.’
      • ‘They just sat there, he swirling a drink with a spoon and she staring off into space.’
      • ‘He stared at his pint, head down, swirling the beer slowly in the glass between his hands.’
      • ‘2 Pour in the beaten eggs and swirl them round and round in the pan with a fork, shaking the pan frequently with one hand.’
      • ‘I swirled honey and sugar into my latte and looked for a place to deposit the spoon.’
      • ‘The scorer took off to greet the pocket of fans down by the corner flag, swirling his shirt above his head in celebration.’
      • ‘Instead, she picked up a strawberry, swirled it in the cream and brought it to her mouth.’
      • ‘I put down my half full cup of tea back onto the tray and poured some milk into it, swirling it around.’
      • ‘Lauren swirls her white wine around in the glass and watches amused as Mark feasts on his steak.’
      • ‘By running a comb through the water the oil paints are swirled together to form a marble pattern.’
      • ‘Heat over a medium-high heat, add a good tablespoonful of batter, then swirl the pan in a circular motion to coat the bottom.’
      • ‘The agent put on rubber gloves and opened my thermos and swirled the coffee around.’
      • ‘I swirled my hot cocoa with my straw, staring out my window at the softly falling snow.’
      • ‘The wind was swirling up leaf litter and the dusty snow together and they made a dry hissing sound.’
      • ‘A strong warm wind whipped up the drizzle and swirled it around the streets.’
      • ‘Sour cream swirls: swirl a dollop of sour cream or yogurt into thick soups.’
      • ‘Put the rice into a pot and wash it with cold water, swirling the rice with one hand and tipping off the milky water.’
      • ‘We swirl the ice in our plastic cup of Scotch and Coke and look at the people sitting near us.’
      • ‘Heat up a small omelette pan and add a teaspoon of oil, swirling it around the pan.’
      • ‘Australians drink coffee in smaller cups, our baristas tend to swirl the milk a little less, and we have completely different terminology.’


  • 1A quantity of something moving in a twisting or spiralling pattern.

    ‘swirls of dust swept across the floor’
    • ‘When the first ship entered, it stirred up dust into a swirl.’
    • ‘The swirls of dust whirl up around him, and he walks into their midst.’
    • ‘The road, where at points the wind raised swirls of white dust without itself being felt, was as lonely as though no one had ever been along it.’
    • ‘The desert dust kicked up swirls up into a impenetrable smoke screen.’
    • ‘I heard the wind whisper as I stood there in the swirls of dust.’
    • ‘The room welcomed me inside with a sigh and a swirl of dust.’
    • ‘She coughed as the dry swirls of midday dust seeped into her lungs.’
    • ‘The occasional gust of wind sent little swirls of dust and debris flying through the air, and dead bodies littered the ground.’
    • ‘He climbed down the swaying ladder onto the ancient hardwood floor, as he landed a swirl of dust filled his nostrils causing him to gag.’
    • ‘The helicopters touched down in a swirl of blinding dust, a condition pilots call a ‘brownout.’’
    1. 1.1 A twisting or spiralling movement or pattern.
      ‘she emerged with a swirl of skirts’
      ‘swirls of colour’
      • ‘Standing at least twice her height, it was covered with ornate curves of brass and steel, forming a graceful and intricate pattern of swirls and loops.’
      • ‘A burr is a growth on the side of a tree with a pattern of dense swirls in its grain.’
      • ‘Turning with a swirl of her emerald skirts, Sara placed a gentle finger against Alex's lips, silencing her.’
      • ‘One tent was a beautiful crimson with swirls of golden spirals.’
      • ‘Her face is covered with Celtic swirls and patterns.’
      • ‘His nose had tattoos all over it - and his eyes poked out from a lavish pattern of paisley swirls all over his cheeks and forehead.’
      • ‘The outfit was a beautiful midnight blue dress, with spaghetti straps and faint white swirls working their way through in an exotic pattern.’
      • ‘There was a swirl of movement in the dimly lit alcove.’
      • ‘I watched them drop a compound of powder in the vats and saw the swirls of colour turn the vats purple, or blue or any colour.’
      • ‘Because holography is a method of lens less photography, the photographic plate appears as a meaningless pattern of swirls.’
      • ‘The music thumps in his ears as the wind and other cars speed by in a swirl of motion and color.’
      • ‘In the swirl of movement that follows, things happen fast even though it seems to the cop as if everything has gone into slow motion.’
      • ‘The walls are a pretty light blue, and there is trim along the ceiling that matches: it's a darker blue, with black swirls running through it.’
      • ‘The carpet is a rich scarlet, with gold swirls running through it, taken from the Victory Theatre when he left there in the early 1980s.’
      • ‘He wore a minimum amount of clothing, decorating his body with a pattern of black swirls.’
      • ‘Jennifer held up a brightly coloured pillow case, which had patterns of swirls in fluorescent colours.’
      • ‘Black, white and ginger all in unique swirls and patterns.’
      • ‘Here and there, a detail attracts more precise rendering; a hand, a face, a small insect emerge from the swirl of color.’
      • ‘Three hours later, her hands were covered from wrist to fingernails with an intricate pattern of swirls, lines, and dots that had been applied using a syringe without its needle.’
      • ‘It looked very old and traced with lacy patterns of swirls, vines, and flowers, but it wasn't just white or just black; it was a twisted mixture of both black and white.’


Late Middle English (originally Scots in the sense ‘whirlpool’): perhaps of Low German or Dutch origin; compare with Dutch zwirrelen ‘to whirl’.