Definition of sway in English:

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Pronunciation: /swā/


1Move or cause to move slowly or rhythmically backward and forward or from side to side: [no object]: he swayed slightly on his feet (as adjective swaying) swaying palm trees [with object]: wind rattled and swayed the trees
More example sentences
  • Guitarist McGarvey sways backwards and forwards on his wah-wah pedal as the nine-piece band with full horn section segues seamlessly from Shaft to Bullitt.
  • When the length of the sentence was then announced, Coltman appeared visibly stunned, swaying backwards and forwards.
  • The lanterns were loosely hanging on strings through the cherry trees, slowly swaying in the gentle breeze.
swing, shake, oscillate, undulate, move to and fro, move back and forth
stagger, wobble, rock, lurch, reel, roll, list, stumble, pitch
1.1 [with object] Control or influence (a person or course of action): he’s easily swayed by other people
More example sentences
  • The trouble is a strong leader with persuasive oratory can easily sway simple folk who have little ability or even inclination to make up their own minds on issues.
  • At the age she was then, she was easily swayed in one direction or another and Mr Jones was a cinch.
  • Consequently, if you are easily swayed, then never try to engage in polite conversation but hang up the phone immediately.
influence, affect, bias, persuade, win over;
manipulate, bend, mold
1.2 literary Rule; govern: now let the Lord forever reign and sway us as he will
rule, govern, dominate, control, guide


1A rhythmical movement from side to side: the easy sway of her hips
More example sentences
  • His rhythmic sway and conservative movements reflect his roots-based origins.
  • I could feel every sway of Will's hips, and every suggestive movement he made with his feet.
  • The breeze whipped through the room and made fire sway side to side over splintered wood as it shrieked and sweltered, then fell.
swing, roll, shake, oscillation, undulation
2Rule; control: the part of the continent under Russia’s sway
More example sentences
  • Antioch held Edessa and Tripoli under its sway and was ruled by Normans.
  • What gives him the right to hold so much sway and power over Montserrat and the lives of Montserratians?
  • By 1018, the whole of Bulgaria had fallen once more under the sway of Byzantine rule.
clout, influence, power, weight, authority, control


hold sway

Have great power or influence over a particular person, place, or domain.
Example sentences
  • Not only does this oligarchy of permanent interests (or call it ‘elite consensus’) control all levers of power, it also holds sway over the country's resources.
  • Andalucia is a traditional, rural society where, despite all evidence of macho posturing, the power of the matriarch holds sway.
  • Ultimately, it is because the influences holding sway are far deeper than simply editorial decisions about how journalists cover particular stories.
hold power, wield power, exercise power, have jurisdiction, have authority, have dominion, rule, be in control, predominate;
have the upper hand, have the edge, have the whip hand, have mastery
informal run the show, be in the driver's seat, be in the saddle

Phrasal verbs

sway something up

Nautical Hoist a mast into position.


Middle English: corresponding in sense to Low German swājen 'be blown to and fro' and Dutch zwaaien 'swing, walk in a tottering way'.

Words that rhyme with sway

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For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sway

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