Definition of swirl in US English:



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

    ‘the smoke was swirling around him’
    • ‘The smoke crept upwards and swirled in the column of light.’
    • ‘Suddenly the fog moved, swirling to form the shape of a man's head.’
    • ‘Local residents told protestors how they woke to find smoke from the blaze swirling through their homes.’
    • ‘They quickly got higher and higher in the air as their clothes swirled in the wind.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When wind comes up and fans the fire, the smoke swirls fast and strong.’
    • ‘The air swirled with dust and smoke and the smell of petrol and spicy sausages.’
    • ‘Its silvery surface rippled and swirled on occasion like a quiet mountain pool.’
    • ‘The sun shone through the canopy of leaves, and the wind made the leaves swirl around her.’
    • ‘My blood was swirling in a spiral pattern, before finally mixing with the water and turning it red.’
    • ‘I could see a genuine look of concern, and all my emotions seemed to swirl up inside me.’
    • ‘Wind began to swirl around her, picking up speed.’
    • ‘Dark sunglasses graced her face as her black duster jacket swirled in the wind.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Shawn's whole world swirled, and twisted, making him want to throw up, but he stayed conscious.’
    • ‘An icy blast of wind from the Arctic swirled down the hillside and froze the skin on his face.’
    • ‘At first he saw nothing but darkness, swirling and spinning around in front of him.’
    • ‘Dust swirled around with the wind, forming intricate patterns among the rubble.’
    • ‘Clouds began to swirl above and the wind picked up.’
    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 spiraling pattern.
      ‘swirl a little cream into the soup’
      • ‘Heat up a small omelette pan and add a teaspoon of oil, swirling it around the pan.’
      • ‘Heat over a medium-high heat, add a good tablespoonful of batter, then swirl the pan in a circular motion to coat the bottom.’
      • ‘I put down my half full cup of tea back onto the tray and poured some milk into it, swirling it around.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Australians drink coffee in smaller cups, our baristas tend to swirl the milk a little less, and we have completely different terminology.’
      • ‘A strong warm wind whipped up the drizzle and swirled it around the streets.’
      • ‘He stared at his pint, head down, swirling the beer slowly in the glass between his hands.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘By running a comb through the water the oil paints are swirled together to form a marble pattern.’
      • ‘The agent put on rubber gloves and opened my thermos and swirled the coffee around.’
      • ‘Sour cream swirls: swirl a dollop of sour cream or yogurt into thick soups.’
      • ‘I swirled my hot cocoa with my straw, staring out my window at the softly falling snow.’
      • ‘We swirl the ice in our plastic cup of Scotch and Coke and look at the people sitting near us.’
      • ‘Lauren swirls her white wine around in the glass and watches amused as Mark feasts on his steak.’
      • ‘Put the rice into a pot and wash it with cold water, swirling the rice with one hand and tipping off the milky water.’
      • ‘The wind was swirling up leaf litter and the dusty snow together and they made a dry hissing sound.’
      • ‘Instead, she picked up a strawberry, swirled it in the cream and brought it to her mouth.’


  • 1A quantity of something moving in a swirl.

    ‘swirls of dust swept across the floor’
    • ‘The swirls of dust whirl up around him, and he walks into their midst.’
    • ‘The helicopters touched down in a swirl of blinding dust, a condition pilots call a ‘brownout.’’
    • ‘The desert dust kicked up swirls up into a impenetrable smoke screen.’
    • ‘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 room welcomed me inside with a sigh and a swirl of dust.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I heard the wind whisper as I stood there in the swirls of dust.’
    • ‘When the first ship entered, it stirred up dust into a swirl.’
    • ‘The occasional gust of wind sent little swirls of dust and debris flying through the air, and dead bodies littered the ground.’
    • ‘She coughed as the dry swirls of midday dust seeped into her lungs.’
    1. 1.1 A twisting or spiraling movement or pattern.
      ‘she emerged with a swirl of skirts’
      ‘swirls of color’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The music thumps in his ears as the wind and other cars speed by in a swirl of motion and color.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There was a swirl of movement in the dimly lit alcove.’
      • ‘Jennifer held up a brightly coloured pillow case, which had patterns of swirls in fluorescent colours.’
      • ‘One tent was a beautiful crimson with swirls of golden spirals.’
      • ‘Black, white and ginger all in unique swirls and patterns.’
      • ‘Because holography is a method of lens less photography, the photographic plate appears as a meaningless pattern of swirls.’
      • ‘A burr is a growth on the side of a tree with a pattern of dense swirls in its grain.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Turning with a swirl of her emerald skirts, Sara placed a gentle finger against Alex's lips, silencing her.’
      • ‘Her face is covered with Celtic swirls and patterns.’
      • ‘He wore a minimum amount of clothing, decorating his body with a pattern of black swirls.’
      • ‘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 outfit was a beautiful midnight blue dress, with spaghetti straps and faint white swirls working their way through in an exotic pattern.’


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