Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The width of a scythe stroke or a mowing-machine blade.
  • n. A path of this width made in mowing.
  • n. The mown grass or grain lying on such a path.
  • n. Something likened to a swath; a strip.
  • idiom cut a swath To create a great stir, impression, or display: "He cut a bold and even sacrificial swath across American politics” ( Gail Sheehy).
  • idiom cut a swath To extend in distinctive physical length and width: "the surprising 17th Arrondissement, which cuts a generous swath across northwest Paris” ( Jean Rafferty).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The track cut out by a scythe in mowing.
  • n. A broad sweep or expanse.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A line of grass or grain cut and thrown together by the scythe in mowing or cradling.
  • n. The whole sweep of a scythe, or the whole breadth from which grass or grain is cut by a scythe or a machine, in mowing or cradling.
  • n. A band or fillet; a swathe.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A line or ridge of grass, or grain, or the like, cut and thrown together by a scythe or mowing-machine: often used figuratively.
  • n. The whole reach or sweep of a scythe or cut of a mowing-machine; also, the path or passage so cut: as, a wide swath: often used figuratively.
  • n. A track; trace.
  • n. Same as swathe.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a path or strip (as cut by one course of mowing)
  • n. the space created by the swing of a scythe or the cut of a mowing machine

Etymologies

Middle English swathe, from Old English swæth, track.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old English swæþ, swathu ("track, trace, scar"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • I've heard the British pronunciation ("swaythe") many times and in different venues; often enough that I'm going to put it in my 'Bi-sonic' list.

    December 20, 2012

  • Thanks Bilby and everyone else.

    September 26, 2010

  • Swath appears in phrasal constructions with a variety of verbs, as revealed by a quick search on Google using quotations around the phrase: create (a swath), burn, ravage, cut, slice, flatten, destroy, shear, mow, shave, peel, harvest - most with the sense of removal of something in a strip. One can also do the opposite - grow a swath, plant a swath, raise a swath.

    September 1, 2009

  • "A massive fire in the Angeles National Forest nearly doubled in size overnight, threatening 12,000 homes Monday in a 20-mile-long swath of flame and smoke and surging toward a mountaintop broadcasting complex and historic observatory."
    --Associated Press

    September 1, 2009

  • I was looking at the WeirdNet definitions for swath (here) and swathe (there). They appear to mean quite separate things.

    Either that, or the gentleman in question merely pronounces the word differently.

    Additional information. OED lists swath by itself, thus:
    1 swath1, swathe
    2 swath2, swathe

    The first:
    1. Track, trace. lit. and fig. Obs.
    Chiefly or ? only OE.; quot. c 1250 is dubious.

    2. a. The space covered by a sweep of the mower's scythe; the width of grass or corn so cut.

    b. As a measure of grass land: A longitudinal division of a field, ? orig. reckoned by the breadth of one sweep of the scythe. local.

    c. The extent of sweep of a scythe. Obs. rare.
    Misunderstood by R. Holme Armoury III. 332/2 as ‘the long crooked Staff or Pole’ of a scythe.

    d. A stroke of the scythe in reaping. rare.

    3. a. A row or line of grass, corn, or other crop, as it falls or lies when mown or reaped; also collectively, a crop mown and lying on the ground; phr. in (the) swath (cf. LG. in't swatt), lying in this condition.
    Sometimes, ‘the quantity falling at one sweep of the scythe’ (Robinson Whitby Gloss. 1876 s.v. Sweeathe).

    b. transf. Applied to growing grass or corn ready for mowing or reaping.

    c. to cut a swath (U.S. slang): to make a pompous display, swagger, ‘cut a dash’. Now freq. to cut a wide swath.

    4. transf. and fig. a. A broad track, belt, strip, or longitudinal extent of something.

    b. Something compared to grass or corn falling before the scythe or sickle; esp. used of troops ‘mown down’ in battle.

    5. attrib. and Comb., as swath-width; swath-board, a slanting board attached to the cutter-bar of a mowing machine, designed to force the cut grass, etc., into a narrower swath; swath(e)-balk, a ridge of grass left unmown between the swaths, or between the sweeps of the scythe; hence swath(e)-balked a.; swath(e)-rake, ‘a wooden rake the breadth of the swath, used to collect the scattered hay or corn’ (E.D.D.); swath-turner, a machine used for turning over swaths of hay.

    The second:
    local variant of SWARTH n.1 (Cf. SWAD n.1)


    And for swathe:
    1 swathe, n.1
    2 swathe, n.2
    3 swathe, v.

    The first:
    see SWATH1

    The second:
    1. A band of linen, woollen, or other material in which something is enveloped; a wrapping; sometimes, a single fold or winding of such; also collect. sing. a. gen.

    b. sing. and pl. An infant's swaddling-bands. Obs.

    c. A surgical bandage.

    2. transf. a. A natural formation constituting a wrapping; a covering membrane, integument; an object that enwraps something, as a cloud.

    b. = LIST n.3 6b, LISTEL. Obs.

    c. fig. Something that restricts or confines like a swaddling-band.

    3. Comb.: swathe-fish, the ribbon-fish.

    And the third:
    1. trans. To envelop in a swathe or swathes; to wrap up, swaddle, bandage.

    b. Said of the swathe or wrapping.

    c. To wrap round something, as or like a swathe or bandage.

    2. transf. and fig. To envelop or surround as with a wrapping; to enwrap, enfold; to encircle so as to confine or restrain.

    ¶3. To make into sheaves. Obs. rare0.

    October 14, 2008

  • Cambridge Dictionary has:
    "swathe (AREA) noun
    1 C (ALSO swath) a long strip or large area especially of land:
    'Huge swathes of rain forest are being cleared for farming and mining.'
    2 S LITERARY a varied section or range:
    'These people represent a broad/wide swathe of public opinion.'"

    I can't see any misuse in the example you cite.

    October 14, 2008

  • I had always pronounced, and heard this word pronounced, as swath. This morning on the radio I heard a (British) journalist pronounce it (twice) as "swaythe." I think he was misusing the term swathe rather than pronouncing something as distinctively British, though, because he was using it in the sense of "large areas," not "enveloping bandage" or "swaddling clothes."

    October 14, 2008