Intermediate+ Word of the Day: swagger

swagger (verb) /ˈswægɚ/ LISTEN

To swagger is to walk or move in a proud and arrogant way. To boast or brag noisily about something can also be to swagger. As a noun, a swagger is this particular way of walking and moving.

Example sentences

  • The captain of the pirates swaggered across the deck.
  • Kate is always swaggering about her job.
  • I could tell by the boy's swagger that he was the leader of the group.

In pop culture

Listen to the Jonas Brothers singing “Heart and Soul” in this clip from the movie Rock Camp 2:

Listen out for the lyric “If you can swagger like ol’ Mick Jagger.”

Did you know?

Regular readers of word of the day may remember reading about the word strut, which is also a proud way of walking. If you strut, you are generally holding your head up and your torso quite stiff, with your chest puffed out, rather like a rooster. A swagger is a more relaxed, rolling gait, rather like the way John Travolta moves in this clip from the movie Saturday Night Fever:

Commonly confused with

Don’t confuse swagger with stagger. They are both ways of walking, but although the spelling only differs by one letter, if you stagger, you are walking unsteadily, as you might if you are dizzy or have had a little too much to drink.

Origin

Swagger dates back to the late 16th century, specifically the 1580s, and originally meant ‘to strut in a defiant or insolent manner,’ and is a frequentative form of the verb swag (meaning ‘to sway‘), which came into English from a Scandinavian source, such as the Old Norse sveggja (to swing or sway), and can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic swengwanan, though its origin before then is uncertain. You may remember reading about the different origin theories for swag last week. Swagger was first recorded in the works of William Shakespeare (it appears in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV and King Lear). The sense ‘to boast or brag’ dates back to the 1590s. The noun comes from the verb, and was first used in the early 18th century.

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