Definition of swift in US English:



  • 1Happening quickly or promptly.

    ‘a remarkably swift recovery’
    • ‘Seen from the side a battle is a struggle and a rivalry between the sides that use artillery fire, swift maneuvers and lightning strikes.’
    • ‘Almost as quickly, people began calling for swift action by Baltimore's criminal justice system.’
    • ‘Hopefully being known as ‘Fast’ Eddie DeSoto will enable a swift rise up the greasy Mafia pole. reasons to be cheerful’
    • ‘You take swift decisions and make quick changes when situations are tense and demanding.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘As one of her own television reports might conclude, the attack is bound to prompt Israeli hardliners to demand swift retaliation.’
    • ‘With his domestic problems and this illness, we all pray for a swift recovery.’
    • ‘It has turbo technology that commands a swift take-off and has tuned suspensions that were designed for quick and agile moves.’
    • ‘Imagine my utter surprise when he got off his horse in one swift motion and bowed down in front of me!’
    • ‘He floored budding chess players with his swift one-liners like the lightening fast moves he makes on the board.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His swift action meant speedy help for Janet, who has made a full recovery, and also a bravery nomination for Sam, from Heywood.’
    • ‘Her eyes quickly made a swift sweep of the people in the room.’
    • ‘Crane quickly reached into my coat and in one swift movement stuffed the papers into his pants chuckling at my disgusted look.’
    • ‘Supporters believe emergency drivers should be exempt from speed limits when lives depend on a swift response.’
    • ‘Like Fuller and Guderian, de Gaulle advocated a fully professional army, with an armoured corps capable of swift manoeuvres.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The participants hoped their recommendations would help prompt the state and central governments to take swift action on infrastructure development.’
    • ‘But following a swift Labour recovery, little has been heard of the pebbledash people.’
    • ‘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.’
    prompt, rapid, sudden, immediate, instant, instantaneous, without delay, ready, punctual
    rapid, quick, brisk, lively, speedy, fast, high-speed, expeditious, express, breakneck, meteoric, whirlwind
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    1. 1.1 Moving or capable of moving at high speed.
      ‘the water was very swift’
      ‘the swiftest horse in his stable’
      • ‘White and pale camels are much preferred by the men as mounts, especially those which are swift moving, sleek and pleasant to the eye.’
      • ‘The scouts, on their light, swift horses, were racing ahead, but they wouldn't maintain the gap for long.’
      • ‘Putting on a swift burst of speed, he dived low and skimmed the waters of a lake.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Kathleen turned around to see that in the distance three men on horseback were riding towards her at a frighteningly swift speed.’
      • ‘They are swift and speedy, but their style can leave holes to be exploited in the defence.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Thanks to a swift horse powered by a mysterious elixir, he intercepts Domenico, wounding him mortally.’
      • ‘It was a messenger, mounted on a slim and swift chestnut horse.’
      • ‘From the foggy midnight mist came quiet, swift horses, wielding conscienceless armored statues.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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)

    • ‘Flyovers were generally excluded, except for those species that normally forage or search for food in flight (e.g. vultures, swifts, and swallows).’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Wing loading in the paradise tree snake falls between those two extremes, but it's closer to that of the swift.’
    • ‘Layang-Layang island, or Swallows Island, is populated by hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, mainly various species of swallows and swifts.’
    • ‘Birds make territorial calls, swifts and swallows fly by, and then, bats emerge.’
    • ‘So if you do have swallows nesting, keep an eye open for chats and swifts.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A few notable birds I've seen flying over are a lesser kestrel and some unidentified swifts (probably Common Swifts).’
    • ‘Swallows, swifts and nighthawks, all pursuing flying insects, fly erratically.’
    • ‘As a means of escape from his convalescence he began learning about birds and watched swallows and swifts returning from Africa.’
    • ‘For years, before I had my stoep enclosed with a roof, swallows, swifts and European starlings nested under the eaves.’
    • ‘Barn swallows and house swifts trawl above the water.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Titmice, chickadees, gnatcatchers, grackles, and swifts came and went.’
    • ‘The White-throated Swift is a large, slender swift with long wings and a narrow tail, usually held closed into a point.’
    • ‘This set includes the owls and nightjars, which may have a close relationship to the swifts and hummingbirds.’
    • ‘The true shear tips look like the swifts (the bird) wing tips.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 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.