Intermediate+ Word of the Day: swing

swing (verb, noun) /swɪŋ/ LISTEN

A golfer swinging a golf club

A child swinging on a swing set (that’s the large fixture in a park that you sit on to swing)

To swing means ‘to move back and forth or round and round’ or ‘to move in a curve.’ It also means ‘to hang freely’ and ‘to die or kill by hanging’. Figuratively, swing means ‘to change opinions or interests’ and ‘to influence or manage something as wanted.’ As a noun, swing is the movement and instance of swinging or a change in opinion. It is also a seat hung by ropes on which someone can sit and swing.

Example sentences

  • The broken shutter swung in the wind.
  • Mark was swinging his arms as he walked down the street.
  • A hammock swings between two trees at the bottom of our garden.
  • The judge told the convicted man he was going to swing for what he had done.
  • Public opinion has swung in the politician's favor.
  • The company director managed to swing the deal to suit his business interests.
  • There has been a swing in opinion since the election and polls show a sharp drop in the president's popularity.
  • The little girl was playing on a swing hanging from the apple tree.

Words often used with swing

take a swing at someone: try to hit someone. Example: “The drunk guy kept insulting me until, in the end, I took a swing at him.” This expression is also used in baseball, golf and other sports, when a player tries to hit a ball with an instrument, like a bat or a golf club.

in full swing: fully operational. Example: “The company will be running with a skeleton staff over Christmas and New Year, but we’ll be back in full swing on January 9.”

in the swing of things: be engaged and making progress. Example: “When Jane first started this job, she found it quite difficult, but she’s really got into the swing of things now.” We also have the similar expression get back into the swing of things for when you stop being engaged and then become engaged with things again. “It’s hard to get back into the swing of things at school after winter vacation.”

swing both ways (slang): be bisexual. Example: “Paul used to be with Zoe, but now he’s with Robert; I guess he swings both ways.” The unrelated expression the door swings both ways means that two sides both have responsibility for something. “You shouldn’t expect that I will always call you. The door swings both ways; you should call me sometimes!”

go with a swing: be lively and/or successful. Example: “Dan was worried no one would come to his party, but in the end loads of people turned up and it went with a swing.”

Additional information

In US presidential elections, a swing state is a state that could have a majority of either Democrat or Republican votes. Florida is a famous swing state with many votes in the electoral college. Candidates usually spend a lot of time in these states because winning in them is very important due to the structure of US elections. In the most recent election, Donald Trump won many important swing states, although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a large margin.

In pop culture

Swing is also a style of jazz and a dance style associated with it. Here you can listen to famous jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald singing “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”:

The dance style that sprang up alongside the music, also known as swing dance, covered a wide range of styles at the height of the swing era. Only a few of those still exist today, including the Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Lindy Charleston. You can read more about the history of swing dance by clicking here.

Other forms

swingable (adjective), swingingly (adverb)

Origin

Swing dates back to before the year 900, as the Old English verb swingan, and later the Middle English verb swingen, meant ‘to beat, strike or flog,’ as well as ‘to rush or fling yourself.’ It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic verb swingan, and is related to the Old Saxon and Old High German swingan, as well as the modern German schwingen. The meanings ‘to move back and forth’ and ‘to cause to move back and forth’ both appeared in the mid-16th century, while the figurative sense, ‘to make something happen’ is from the early 20th century. The political sense, related to elections, was first used in 1966. The noun comes from the verb; the Old English swinge originally meant ‘blow or strike.’ A swing, meaning ‘a seat suspended on ropes’ only dates back to the late 17th century. The figurative meaning, ‘a shift in opinion,’ was first recorded in 1899.

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