Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

swim - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     swim pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participleswimming
past tenseswam
past participleswum
  1. 1
    [intransitive] to move through water by making movements with your arms and legs

    Pollution has made it unsafe to swim in the lake.

    Can you swim?

    1. a.
      [transitive] to swim a particular distance, or to swim in a race

      He swam 500 metres to shore.

      the first woman to swim the English Channel

    2. b.
      [transitive] to swim in a particular style

      He can swim breaststroke and backstroke.

    3. c.
      [intransitive] if fish swim, they move in water
  2. 2
    [intransitive] if your head or eyes are swimming, you cannot think or see clearly, usually because you are tired or ill
    1. a.
      if things swim, they appear to be moving, usually because you are tired or ill


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play