Definition of swell in English:

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Pronunciation: /swel/

verb (swells, swelling; past participle swollen /ˈswōlən/ or swelled)

[no object]
1(Especially of a part of the body) become larger or rounder in size, typically as a result of an accumulation of fluid: her bruised knee was already swelling up figurative the sky was black and swollen with rain (as adjective swollen) swollen glands
More example sentences
  • Rash, itching, body swelling, breathing difficulties, possible localised red itchy mouth and throat, and even collapse.
  • Your back aches to high heaven, your smell has turned a different kind of sour, you are hungry and the welts on your body are swelling as your pores open up again.
  • So much was going on that his eyes flashed images and his body swelled with sweat, and he didn't care about what it was, but just about when he would see it.
expand, bulge, distend, inflate, dilate, bloat, puff up, balloon, fatten, fill out, tumefy
1.1Become or make greater in intensity, number, amount, or volume: [no object]: the murmur swelled to a roar (as adjective swelling) the swelling ranks of Irish singer-songwriters [with object]: the city’s population was swollen by refugees
More example sentences
  • The village, its population swollen by refugees, had been thought safe by many local people.
  • The ranks of female players swelled by a similar amount to 132, up from 116 earlier in the decade.
  • Hundreds of thousands of refugees have swelled Monrovia's population to well over a million, scrabbling where they can for shelter and running short of food, water and medical supplies.
grow, enlarge, increase, expand, rise, escalate, multiply, proliferate, snowball, mushroom
increase, enlarge, augment, boost, top up, step up, multiply
grow loud, grow louder, amplify, crescendo, intensify, heighten
1.2Be intensely affected or filled with a particular emotion: she felt herself swell with pride
More example sentences
  • We watch strange moods fill our children, and our hearts swell with pain.
  • Then there is dowager Jodha Bai, stately, self-contained, but lording over her eyes which swell with more water than a cloudburst can contain.
  • Cut to close-up of red, corn-syrup-stained hand opening to reveal said coin as violins swell with sadness.
be filled, be bursting, brim, overflow


1 [in singular] A full or gently rounded shape or form: the soft swell of her breast
More example sentences
  • Her gown cuts down so low behind her he can slip his hand beneath the silken material to cradle the soft swell of her buttocks.
  • The hill's lower slopes swell gradually to a gently rounded summit plateau, a bare, wind-scoured place that is haunted by the melancholic cry of the golden plover.
  • He could make out the swell of her left breast, harbouring a half moon crescent of dancing light as she did so.
1.1A gradual increase in sound, amount, or intensity: there was a swell of support in favor of him
More example sentences
  • Sure, profits shrank, but that was more than offset by huge swells in sales volumes as new customers were drawn in.
  • The majority of town councillors continue to express support for the project and this is extremely important at a stage when there is a huge swell of community support.
  • I am not convinced that there is ‘a huge swell of community support’ for the Riverbank project.
increase, rise, escalation, surge, boost
1.2A welling up of a feeling: a swell of pride swept over George
More example sentences
  • Indeed the same communalists' heart swells with pride when remembering Swami Vivekananda's speeches to Americans about the glory of Vedantic thought.
  • My skin still tingles at the memory and my heart swells with pride and love for my mom, though she's been long gone.
  • My heart swells with pride and love for those who have given up so much to make this world a better place.
2 [usually in singular] A slow, regular movement of the sea in rolling waves that do not break: there was a heavy swell
More example sentences
  • As the yacht surged and rolled over the swell, every movement was magnified enormously at the top of the mast.
  • With airspeed picked up, the lumbering giant quit moving with the movement of the heavy swells and leaving one crest we ploughed into the next.
  • We watched swells break on the point and come around into the anchorage with curling graybeard tops.
3A mechanism for producing a crescendo or diminuendo in an organ or harmonium.
Example sentences
  • Most effective is the contrast created when Slean's piano-tinkling waltz-time verses bloom into symphonic swells of strings and timpani on the pop-smart choruses.
  • Traditionally, a musical climax is reached through the emotionally loaded swell of dynamics or harmonic resolution.
  • Staring with ‘Rolls and Waves of Ignorance’, Herren produces a song based on a series of orchestral swells, a smooth saxophone, and a gently plucked bass.
4 informal, dated A person of wealth or high social position, typically one perceived as fashionable or stylish: a crowd of city swells


North American informal, dated
1Excellent; very good: you’re looking swell
More example sentences
  • I spent the weekend with Gene and Kindy in their swell new apartment.
  • This is a swell sound bite that ignores the reality that someone must pay for the ads, phone banks, direct mail and Web sites.
  • David is a swell multi-talented guy and it was a pleasure to finally meet him.
1.1 archaic Smart; fashionable: a swell boulevard
More example sentences
  • Throwbacks to a swell fashion trend of yesteryear, they spice up any pair of shoes, from ballet flats to mules or slinky stilettos.


North American informal, dated
Excellently; very well: everything was just going swell


someone's head swells

Someone becomes conceited: I am not saying this to make your head swell if I say this, you’ll get swollen-headed
More example sentences
  • And I love Rufus and I am prepared to shout that from the rooftops as the orchestra in my head swells.
  • Mike murmurs in agreement, and my head swells with ridiculously disproportionate pride.
  • People get relaxed with their routines, they get lazy, and their head swells up since they're the one with all the information.


Old English swellan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to German schwellen. Current senses of the noun date from the early 16th century; the informal adjectival use derives from sense 4 of the noun (late 18th century).

Words that rhyme with swell

Adele, Aix-la-Chapelle, aquarelle, artel, au naturel, bagatelle, béchamel, befell, bell, belle, boatel, Brunel, Cadell, carousel, cartel, cell, Chanel, chanterelle, clientele, Clonmel, compel, Cornell, crime passionnel, dell, demoiselle, dispel, dwell, el, ell, Estelle, excel, expel, farewell, fell, Fidel, fontanelle, foretell, Gabrielle, gazelle, gel, Giselle, hell, hotel, impel, knell, lapel, mademoiselle, maître d'hôtel, Manuel, marcel, matériel, mesdemoiselles, Michel, Michelle, Miguel, misspell, morel, moschatel, Moselle, motel, muscatel, nacelle, Nell, Nobel, Noel, organelle, outsell, Parnell, pell-mell, personnel, propel, quell, quenelle, rappel, Raquel, Ravel, rebel, repel, Rochelle, Sahel, sardelle, sell, shell, show-and-tell, smell, Snell, spell, spinel, tell, undersell, vielle, villanelle, well, yell

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: swell

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