Meaning of SWELL in English


I. ˈswel verb

( swelled ; swelled -ld ; or swol·len ˈswōlən also -ln ; swelling ; swells )

Etymology: Middle English swellen, from Old English swellan; akin to Old Saxon & Old High German swellan to swell, Old Norse svella, Gothic uf swalleins inflation, conceit

intransitive verb


a. : to increase in volume : grow larger or bulkier : expand by internal pressure or growth : fill out : dilate

if I walked a hundred yards my ankles swelled up — Sydney (Austral.) Bulletin

eight of my berries quickly disappeared, and the cheeks of the little vagabond swelled — John Burroughs

mucilaginous materials which swell when water is added — Morris Fishbein

b. : to rise above or extend beyond a level, surface, or border

up from the horizon swelled a supernatural light — O.E.Rölvaag

it is in this length of the river that it swells to gigantic size — Tom Marvel

c. : to have a form that curves outward or upward : distend , bulge , protrude

a comfortable paunch swelled out beneath the buttons of his dinner jacket — Hamilton Basso

the green slope swelled upward to the pear orchard — Ellen Glasgow


a. : to become filled with pride and arrogance : become puffed up

swells with pride and importance as he struts up and down — Martin Turnell

b. : to behave or speak in a pompous, blustering, self-important manner

the diver crew will swell around on the boat talking about different jobs they have been on — Richard Bissell

c. : to play the swell : behave as a man of fashion

looked down on so much sheer swelling around — Newsweek


a. : to develop and grow in the consciousness as if seeking an outlet

the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured soul — Shakespeare

b. : to become distended with emotion : become affected with a powerful feeling

her heart swelled with a suffocating sense of resentment — Anne D. Sedgwick


a. : to become augmented in force, intensity, degree, numbers, or value

job opportunities swelled hugely in government — Daniel Bell

the credit union's capital swelled to $110,000 — Frank Hamilton

b. : to become gradually louder : rise to a peak of loudness or sonority

the cries swelled and died away — John Galsworthy

the organ swelled to a climax

transitive verb

1. : to affect with a powerful or expansive emotion : inflate

it swells me to joyful madness — Walt Whitman

he is swollen with pride


a. : to increase the volume or size of : cause to fill out or expand

warm summer water … will quickly swell the planks and so close the seams — C.D.Lane

a hide … is put through a liming process that swells it and loosens the hair — American Guide Series: Pennsylvania

b. : to cause (as a body of water) to become higher, wider, or more turbulent

rivers swollen by rain

ten thousand springs and creeks and a dozen lesser rivers run … to swell the Sacramento — Julian Dana

another little drop to swell the flood of misery — Nevil Shute


a. : to increase in quantity, value, intensity, or degree : augment

some large federal installation or project greatly swelled the school population — N.Y.Times

nobles, landed gentry, merchants … swelled the demand for country houses — Bernard Smith

b. : to augment gradually in loudness (as a musical tone)

the pealing anthem swells the note of praise — Thomas Gray

Synonyms: see expand

II. noun

( -s )


a. : the condition of being swollen : bulge , protuberance

this causes too much swell in the back of the book — Laurence Town

a green bodice which fitted so snugly that the swell of her breasts was accentuated — T.B.Costain


(1) : a rounded elevation or hill ; especially : a long rounded ridge on a sea floor

the mid-Atlantic swell

(2) : a tract of rising ground

(3) : a very broad anticlinal structure

c. : entasis

d. : a local enlargement or thickening in a vein or ore deposit

e. : flipper 2d


a. : a long relatively low wave or an unbroken series of such waves

b. : a slow rhythmic heaving or rolling action or process

the thing rolls on its antique springs with a slow, disquieting swell — Mollie Panter-Downes

that sustained impressiveness, that booming swell , which becomes so intolerable — F.R.Leavis


a. : the act, action, or process of swelling : an increase in volume, size, force, or intensity

a swell in population

there is little dramatic swell into the tragic power that the end of the story demands — Edgar Johnson


(1) : a gradual increase and decrease of the loudness or volume of a musical sound ; also : a sign <> indicating a swell

(2) : a device used in a harpsichord or pipe or reed organ for governing the loudness of tones by opening or closing the cover or set of louvers over a box or chamber enclosing the sounding strings, vibrators, or pipes

(3) : swell box

(4) : swell organ

(5) : swell pedal


a. archaic : an impressive, pompous, or fashionable air or display : dash

a new necktie, nice shirts — you can imagine I cut quite a swell — Walt Whitman

b. : a person dressed in the height of fashion : fashion plate

sketched himself as a … swell , in a top hat, a white silk scarf, and a chesterfield — Janet Flanner

see quite a young swell come out in the latest fashion — Patricia M. Johnson

c. : a person of high social position : nob

a tony street where all the swells lived — J.T.Farrell

d. : a specialist or person of outstanding achievement in a particular field : expert , master

a real swell on birds — H.J.Laski

an agreeable melodist and a terrific swell at orchestration — Arnold Bennett

5. : a small lever connected with the shuttle protector in the shuttle box of a loom

III. adjective

( -er/-est )

Etymology: swell (II) (person dressed in fashion)

1. : smartly dressed or turned out : stylish

I am too shabby … only swell people go to the park — Oscar Wilde

: socially prominent : distinguished

had a lot of swell social connections — Wilson Collison

2. : suitable for or characteristic of swells : fashionable , tip-top

staying at the swellest hotel in town

3. : excellent , great , wonderful — used as a generalized term of enthusiasm or approval

makes a swell impression and is hired — W.H.Whyte

she was a really swell girl — W.F.Jenkins

it's a miracle … I feel perfectly swell — W.S.Maugham

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.