Intermediate+ Word of the Day: swipe

swipe (noun, verb) /swaɪp/ LISTEN

A swipe is a strong sweeping hit or blow—for example, with a golf club or cricket bat. Informally, a swipe is harsh criticism or a cutting remark. As a verb, to swipe means ‘to hit with a sweeping blow’ or, in US slang, ‘to steal.’ Swipe also means ‘to slide a magnetic card through a card reader’ or ‘to move your fingers across a touch screen.’

Example sentences

  • With a swipe of her club, the golfer sent the ball flying toward the green.
  • Don't take any notice of Paul; he's in a bad mood today and he's taking a swipe at everybody.
  • The cricketer swiped at the ball.
  • Nancy swiped $20 from her dad's wallet when he wasn't looking.
  • Richard swiped his card to access the secure room.
  • Swipe the screen to unlock the phone.

Words often used with swipe

swipe in/swipe out: to use a card or other magnetic device to get in or out of a door. Example: “The security at my office is quite high; all the employees have to swipe in and out.”

In pop culture

Love at First Swipe is a web series from Malaysia about finding love via a dating app. You can watch the trailer with English subtitles here:

Did you know?

The expressions swipe right and swipe left are used in the Tinder dating app, as literal instructions of what to do on your touch screen to show interest or disinterest in someone. Now people use these expressions colloquially to mean that they find someone attractive (swipe right) or unattractive (swipe left).


Swipe, meaning ‘a driving stroke with your arms in full swing,’ dates back to the early 19th century. Its origin is uncertain. Some linguists think it came from a dialectal variant of sweep, while others believe it evolved from a now obsolete noun, swip (a strike or blow). Some also point to different possible origins: the Middle English verb swope (to sweep with broad movements), or the obsolete nouns swaip (stroke or blow) or swape (oar or pole). Whichever of these is the true origin, they can all be traced back to the Proto-Germanic root swip-, and is related to the words sweep and swoop. The verb, originally meaning ‘to strike with a sweeping motion,’ also dates back to the early 19th century, and comes from the noun. The US slang sense, ‘to steal,’ dates back to the late 19th century, and is thought to have first appeared as prison slang. The credit card sense dates back to he 1990s, and the screen sense is from the early 21st century.

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