Definition of swift in US English:



  • 1Happening quickly or promptly.

    ‘a remarkably swift recovery’
    • ‘Like Fuller and Guderian, de Gaulle advocated a fully professional army, with an armoured corps capable of swift manoeuvres.’
    • ‘Her eyes quickly made a swift sweep of the people in the room.’
    • ‘But following a swift Labour recovery, little has been heard of the pebbledash people.’
    • ‘If Myles is reading this, hope the op went well and wish a swift recovery, looking forward to getting you back on the golf course’
    • ‘With his domestic problems and this illness, we all pray for a swift recovery.’
    • ‘His swift action meant speedy help for Janet, who has made a full recovery, and also a bravery nomination for Sam, from Heywood.’
    • ‘The participants hoped their recommendations would help prompt the state and central governments to take swift action on infrastructure development.’
    • ‘Supporters believe emergency drivers should be exempt from speed limits when lives depend on a swift response.’
    • ‘At the end of the proceedings, Udom demonstrated his strength for the crowd by walking up to a can and giving it a good swift kick sending it flying off into the air.’
    • ‘Hopefully being known as ‘Fast’ Eddie DeSoto will enable a swift rise up the greasy Mafia pole. reasons to be cheerful’
    • ‘With one swift nod and a quick hand shake, Cannington exited the office The army general was not too sure what to make of this.’
    • ‘Will quickly drew his pistol in a swift wrist motion and shot the man, just like he had seen during duels in many western movies.’
    • ‘Crane quickly reached into my coat and in one swift movement stuffed the papers into his pants chuckling at my disgusted look.’
    • ‘It has turbo technology that commands a swift take-off and has tuned suspensions that were designed for quick and agile moves.’
    • ‘As one of her own television reports might conclude, the attack is bound to prompt Israeli hardliners to demand swift retaliation.’
    • ‘Almost as quickly, people began calling for swift action by Baltimore's criminal justice system.’
    • ‘Imagine my utter surprise when he got off his horse in one swift motion and bowed down in front of me!’
    • ‘Seen from the side a battle is a struggle and a rivalry between the sides that use artillery fire, swift maneuvers and lightning strikes.’
    • ‘He floored budding chess players with his swift one-liners like the lightening fast moves he makes on the board.’
    • ‘You take swift decisions and make quick changes when situations are tense and demanding.’
    prompt, rapid, sudden, immediate, instant, instantaneous, without delay, ready, punctual
    rapid, quick, brisk, lively, speedy, fast, high-speed, expeditious, express, breakneck, meteoric, whirlwind
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Moving or capable of moving at high speed.
      ‘the water was very swift’
      ‘the swiftest horse in his stable’
      • ‘From the foggy midnight mist came quiet, swift horses, wielding conscienceless armored statues.’
      • ‘The scouts, on their light, swift horses, were racing ahead, but they wouldn't maintain the gap for long.’
      • ‘It was a messenger, mounted on a slim and swift chestnut horse.’
      • ‘During the 1st century ad a special courier service with swift horses was set up to bring fresh lychees from Canton north to the imperial court.’
      • ‘Thanks to a swift horse powered by a mysterious elixir, he intercepts Domenico, wounding him mortally.’
      • ‘As one would expect, this is a very swift car, well capable of getting to 60 mph in less than six seconds and with a top speed beyond 150 mph.’
      • ‘Kathleen turned around to see that in the distance three men on horseback were riding towards her at a frighteningly swift speed.’
      • ‘And with that soft promise playing through my mind I relaxed in Michael's arms and wished our journey back to camp swift speed.’
      • ‘The beast is replaced with a thin, swift reptile that is capable taking sharp corners and hiding inside buildings.’
      • ‘Putting on a swift burst of speed, he dived low and skimmed the waters of a lake.’
      • ‘They are swift and speedy, but their style can leave holes to be exploited in the defence.’
      • ‘White and pale camels are much preferred by the men as mounts, especially those which are swift moving, sleek and pleasant to the eye.’
      • ‘Perhaps it was because they knew how to borrow the swift legs of a horse that their own could afford to be slow.’
      • ‘Much of the opera is swift moving dialogue, but a distinctive feature is Martinu's insertion of slower moving sections.’
      fast, rapid, quick, speedy, fleet-footed, fleet, swift as an arrow, like the wind, like lightning
      View synonyms


  • Swiftly.

    ‘streams that ran swift and clear’
    ‘a swift-moving narrative’


  • 1A swift-flying insectivorous bird with long, slender wings and a superficial resemblance to a swallow, spending most of its life on the wing.

    Family Apodidae: several genera and numerous species, including the common Eurasian swift (Apus apus)

    • ‘As a means of escape from his convalescence he began learning about birds and watched swallows and swifts returning from Africa.’
    • ‘This set includes the owls and nightjars, which may have a close relationship to the swifts and hummingbirds.’
    • ‘Our every-day experience is of eagles and swifts and other birds so highly evolved for flight that it seems absurd to think they might ever have been specialized for anything else.’
    • ‘Titmice, chickadees, gnatcatchers, grackles, and swifts came and went.’
    • ‘Just now the skies are busy with birds; rooks and crows grouping and re-grouping in ragged formation, starlings showing off their flock skills, and swifts silver-arrowing round and round.’
    • ‘Layang-Layang island, or Swallows Island, is populated by hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, mainly various species of swallows and swifts.’
    • ‘The true shear tips look like the swifts (the bird) wing tips.’
    • ‘For years, before I had my stoep enclosed with a roof, swallows, swifts and European starlings nested under the eaves.’
    • ‘Data gathered on the acceleration of swifts and swallows illustrate another compromise: Birds with low wing loading and high aspect ratio suffer from lower acceleration performance.’
    • ‘Flyovers were generally excluded, except for those species that normally forage or search for food in flight (e.g. vultures, swifts, and swallows).’
    • ‘Yet another time, near the hamlet of Pelayo, I could hardly see the sky because it was filled with common, pallid and alpine swifts, bee-eaters and house martins.’
    • ‘The great cave behind the falls is the roosting place of hundreds of swifts; at evening they dart in and out of the gorge before braving the torrent to spend the night behind Kaieteur's curtain.’
    • ‘Barn swallows and house swifts trawl above the water.’
    • ‘Birds make territorial calls, swifts and swallows fly by, and then, bats emerge.’
    • ‘A few notable birds I've seen flying over are a lesser kestrel and some unidentified swifts (probably Common Swifts).’
    • ‘So if you do have swallows nesting, keep an eye open for chats and swifts.’
    • ‘The White-throated Swift is a large, slender swift with long wings and a narrow tail, usually held closed into a point.’
    • ‘Wing loading in the paradise tree snake falls between those two extremes, but it's closer to that of the swift.’
    • ‘Swallows, swifts and nighthawks, all pursuing flying insects, fly erratically.’
    • ‘Banning toxic pesticides has led to a welcome return of the swift winged raptor that suffered a decline in the 1960s from being at the end of the food chain.’
  • 2A moth, typically yellow-brown in color, with fast darting flight. The eggs are scattered in flight and the larvae live underground feeding on roots, where they can be a serious pest.

    Family Hepialidae: Hepialus and other genera

  • 3A light, adjustable reel for holding a skein of silk or wool.

    • ‘Illustrated in the book are other articles made in the Dominy shop for family use, such as a wooden bowl made of a burl from an apple tree and a swift to wind wool yarn.’


Old English (as an adjective), from the Germanic base of Old English swīfan ‘move in a course, sweep’. The bird name dates from the mid 17th century.