Definition of sway in US English:



  • 1Move or cause to move slowly or rhythmically backward and forward or from side to side.

    no object ‘he swayed slightly on his feet’
    with object ‘wind rattled and swayed the trees’
    • ‘Apparently the object began to sway backwards and forwards as if it were searching for something.’
    • ‘The lanterns were loosely hanging on strings through the cherry trees, slowly swaying in the gentle breeze.’
    • ‘I heard trees swaying with the wind beyond the buildings.’
    • ‘She sat on the swing and she swayed it backwards then forwards.’
    • ‘Southend Crown Court heard how his vehicle hit a pothole which caused it to sway from side to side before tipping over and trapping his leg.’
    • ‘Each has a tiny bulb fixed on so loosely that when it gets hot it sways from side to side and appears to flicker.’
    • ‘The tree limbs above them swayed as the feet slowly descended, branch by branch, until they hit the ground with a barely a sound.’
    • ‘This helicopter was flying dangerously low over the tree tops, swaying and swinging, turning around and swooping over again.’
    • ‘The song's pounding rhythm had ceased and there was Maggie, walking away, off the dance floor, with her midi dress swaying as she moved.’
    • ‘Afterwards, dozens of models appeared, dancing dynamically or swaying slowly, depending on the theme.’
    • ‘Huge rings of happy dancers sway from side to side, each circle surrounding the one inside of it until the main square is filled to capacity.’
    • ‘She laughed easily and sauntered away slowly, her hips swaying seductively as she moved.’
    • ‘Mr Baker-Smith told the inquest that he then went to a nearby shop-taking Mr Stooke with him and as they walked, he was swaying from side to side and bumping into him.’
    • ‘The Caribbean rhythms; the soca, the pan, the drum were causing bodies to gyrate and shake and move and sway and jump and sweat.’
    • ‘It wriggled slightly under her touch, swaying from side to side.’
    • ‘Guitarist McGarvey sways backwards and forwards on his wah-wah pedal as the nine-piece band with full horn section segues seamlessly from Shaft to Bullitt.’
    • ‘Produced by Rajeev Menon, the commercial shoot had Rani and her team ambling and swaying in the domestic side of the airport's terminal building.’
    • ‘For instance, rather than keeping your torso rigid during barbell curls, you can sway backward and then forward as you curl the weight upward.’
    • ‘When the length of the sentence was then announced, Coltman appeared visibly stunned, swaying backwards and forwards.’
    • ‘‘When I arrived the car was still swaying on its side,’ he said.’
    swing, shake, oscillate, rock, undulate, move from side to side, move to and fro, move back and forth
    stagger, wobble, rock, lurch, reel, roll, list, stumble, pitch, keel, veer, swerve
    waver, fluctuate, vacillate, oscillate, alternate, vary, see-saw, yo-yo, equivocate, hesitate, shilly-shally, go from one extreme to the other
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    1. 1.1with object Control or influence (a person or course of action)
      ‘he's easily swayed by other people’
      • ‘Why forcefully turn kids who have no money to purchase said narcotics into junkies when he could very easily sway teenagers?’
      • ‘The interesting thing to reflect on is the manner in which a strange alliance of forces failed to sway the Irish people.’
      • ‘The thing is I don't think it will sway many people.’
      • ‘Whatever the case, it's clear that Blair's supposed powers of persuasion have failed to sway one man: his Chancellor.’
      • ‘How is it that you could easily sway Father when me and Brian have to literally beg for what we want?’
      • ‘Otherwise, willfulness born of emotion could easily sway you off the path.’
      • ‘Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right.’
      • ‘Although I've been accused of trying to sway people with my screeds and polemics, that has never been the case, at least not consciously.’
      • ‘Let's just say I am easily swayed: I found myself, an hour later, sitting on his face, grinding my hips against his mouth.’
      • ‘People were swayed by the words of the Bible as they listened to Kerr.’
      • ‘The trouble is a strong leader with persuasive oratory can easily sway simple folk who have little ability or even inclination to make up their own minds on issues.’
      • ‘Let's start with the way the cards look, although I'm well aware that this isn't going to be enough to sway anyone's buying decision.’
      • ‘The upshot of all this is that there's pretty much nothing I can say that will sway these people.’
      • ‘Commissioner Gary Bettman doesn't have to let the charges sway him in his decision on Bertuzzi's reinstatement.’
      • ‘Consequently, if you are easily swayed, then never try to engage in polite conversation but hang up the phone immediately.’
      • ‘At the age she was then, she was easily swayed in one direction or another and Mr Jones was a cinch.’
      • ‘Not that someone's religious, but that they try to use that to sway other people.’
      • ‘Did he influence Clara, or did she sway him in their initial decision to keep the concerto hidden?’
      • ‘He told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Coury's arguments probably won't sway him.’
      • ‘This story absolutely outraged me and it is stories such as these that sway people over to thinking that capital punishment should be used on some criminals.’
      influence, affect, bias, persuade, prevail on, bring round, talk round, win over, convert
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    2. 1.2literary Rule; govern.
      ‘now let the Lord forever reign and sway us as he will’
      rule, govern, dominate, control, direct, guide
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  • 1A rhythmical movement from side to side.

    ‘the easy sway of her hips’
    • ‘His rhythmic sway and conservative movements reflect his roots-based origins.’
    • ‘Hakkana realized that slow dancing was easy - you just sway to the music.’
    • ‘I could feel every sway of Will's hips, and every suggestive movement he made with his feet.’
    • ‘If I didn't know better, I'd say she was putting a little extra sway in her step when she walked past me.’
    • ‘As she walked to the entrance of the building, she added a little extra sway of her hips to her walk, knowing Damon had not taken his eyes off of her.’
    • ‘For example, some people took larger natural steps, some walked slowly, and some had more upper body sway or arm swing than did others.’
    • ‘Reciprocating with their other hands, she guided an easy, slow sway into her hands.’
    • ‘The breeze whipped through the room and made fire sway side to side over splintered wood as it shrieked and sweltered, then fell.’
    • ‘His eyes narrow as he watches the subtle sway in Guiromélans's stance.’
    • ‘She walked away, leaving Moni-chan temporarily fixated by the gentle sway of her hips.’
    swing, sweep, wave, roll, shake, movement, oscillation, undulation
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  • 2Rule; control.

    ‘the part of the continent under Russia's sway’
    • ‘Most people I spoke to felt that while some figures had influence, their sway over the Muslim population had to be qualified.’
    • ‘And, say insiders and one large customer, Cisco then offered to use its sway with these corporate buyers to get them to buy those services.’
    • ‘It is the wars of aggression designed to expand imperial sway abroad that produce the fear that fuels his campaign.’
    • ‘For some four centuries Aristotle's philosophy and Aristotle's science ruled the West with virtually unchallenged sway.’
    • ‘But despite all of the power and sway that awaits an early adopter, it's going to take a brave CEO with thick skin to enter the blogosphere.’
    • ‘You would have to have a lot of power and sway and pick up a lot of momentum.’
    • ‘He was sufficiently under the sway of Niebuhr's influence to know the terrain in Niebuhr's way.’
    • ‘By 1018, the whole of Bulgaria had fallen once more under the sway of Byzantine rule.’
    • ‘What gives him the right to hold so much sway and power over Montserrat and the lives of Montserratians?’
    • ‘Where Laertes was very influential by others and had no real control over the mental state he was developing by the sway of Claudius.’
    • ‘Pakistan has gained power and international sway through various political alliances, most significantly the United States.’
    • ‘But the reason that kind of thing happens is because of the corporate sway of these huge companies.’
    • ‘The campaign doesn't ask for much from the general public but instead recognises the power of politics and the sway the general public can have in influencing politicians.’
    • ‘No man should have such power and sway over a king.’
    • ‘Antioch held Edessa and Tripoli under its sway and was ruled by Normans.’
    • ‘The sage commander is beyond the sway and manipulation of others.’
    • ‘Tom McCabe, who has ruled himself out of the leadership contest, will also hold an influential sway.’
    • ‘Exercising substantial sway over corporate giants, it has helped overseas garment workers make unprecedented gains.’
    • ‘Today's media is awash in advice for business managers, tips on how to command underlings, sway bosses and squeeze a bottom line.’
    • ‘Democratic individuals, who in any case are likely to have similar beliefs and opinions because they are similarly situated, easily fall under the hegemonic sway of public opinion.’
    jurisdiction, rule, government, sovereignty, dominion, control, command, power, authority, ascendancy, domination, mastery
    control, domination, power, authority, supremacy, influence, leadership, direction, leverage
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  • hold sway

    • Have great power or influence over a particular person, place, or domain.

      • ‘The notion of Chinese-Indonesians holding economic power has held sway for as long as the nation's history, particularly since the colonial era.’
      • ‘Ultimately, it is because the influences holding sway are far deeper than simply editorial decisions about how journalists cover particular stories.’
      • ‘Not only does this oligarchy of permanent interests (or call it ‘elite consensus’) control all levers of power, it also holds sway over the country's resources.’
      • ‘He refers to many developments in ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue over the past 50 years; he demonstrates how a broad, tolerant religious view now holds sway in the corridors of power.’
      • ‘Andalucia is a traditional, rural society where, despite all evidence of macho posturing, the power of the matriarch holds sway.’
      • ‘Some of us would say it was always an aberration, but it did hold sway for a while under the Chief Justice's influence.’
      • ‘For many of us, long before we begin to appreciate other fine things, the power of baked goods already holds sway, largely due to the aroma that wafts out of neighbourhood bakeries.’
      • ‘But at his loft the power of the image holds sway, as the dominating painting of a laughing, mocking clown quickly makes clear.’
      • ‘This argument seemed to hold sway during the first trial.’
      • ‘Analysts, however, said the plan was in fact doomed by bureaucratic infighting for control over State Power, which reportedly holds sway over one-sixth of all state assets.’
      hold power, wield power, exercise power, rule, be most powerful, be in power, be in control, predominate, have the ascendancy, have the greatest influence, have the upper hand, have the edge, have the whip hand, hold the whip hand
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Phrasal Verbs

  • sway something up

    • Hoist a mast into position.


Middle English: corresponding in sense to Low German swājen ‘be blown to and fro’ and Dutch zwaaien ‘swing, walk in a tottering way’.