Intermediate+ Word of the Day: swindle

swindle (verb, noun) /ˈswɪndəl/ LISTEN

You should always be careful who you give your card details to, if you don't want to get swindled.

To swindle means ‘to cheat someone to get their money or other valuable things’ or ‘to obtain something by cheating or other dishonest practices.’ The noun is the act of cheating or a scheme involving cheating. Anything deceptive, such as fraud, is also a swindle.

Example sentences

  • The con man swindled the elderly couple out of thousands of dollars.
  • The crooked accountant had been swindling money from the company for years.
  • The thief's swindle left us without any money to pay the bills.
  • It might look like an amazing investment opportunity, but you need to make sure it isn't a swindle.
  • That politician's promises were nothing but a swindle! He only said that stuff to get votes.

In pop culture

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle is a 1980 British film about the punk group the Sex Pistols. You can see the trailer for the film here:

Did you know?

As a verb, swindle is a synonym of cheat. You should be able to use cheat in almost any context to replace swindle (but you won’t always be able to use swindle to replace cheat—you don’t swindle someone if you cheat in a game, for instance). As a noun, fraud is a closer synonym of swindle, but it is usually used as an uncountable noun (a dishonest person can be a fraud, but the act is fraud). Fraud is also the name of the offense you would be prosecuted for if you swindled someone.

Other forms

swindler (noun)


Swindle dates back to the late 18th century. It is a back-formation from the noun swindler (a cheater), which also dates back to the late 18th century, but appeared about a decade before the verb. Swindler came into English from the German noun Schwindler, which meant ‘an irresponsible person, a cheat or a promoter of wild schemes,’ and derives from the verb schwindeln (‘to be dizzy or giddy’ as well as ‘to defraud’), from the Old High German swintilon (to be giddy), a frequentative form of swintan (to languish or disappear). It is related to the Old English swindan (to languish) and swima (dizziness). The noun, meaning ‘the act of swindling,’ comes from the verb, and dates back to the early 19th century.

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