from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The width of a scythe stroke or a mowing-machine blade.
  • noun A path of this width made in mowing.
  • noun The mown grass or grain lying on such a path.
  • noun Something likened to a swath, especially a strip, path, or extension.
  • noun A great stir, impression, or display.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A line or ridge of grass, or grain, or the like, cut and thrown together by a scythe or mowing-machine: often used figuratively.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A track; trace.
  • noun Same as swathe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A line of grass or grain cut and thrown together by the scythe in mowing or cradling.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A band or fillet; a swathe.
  • noun [Prov. Eng.] a row of new-mown grass.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Middle English swathe, from Old English swæth, track.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English swæþ, swathu ("track, trace, scar").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word swath.


  • Through Tonight: The evening's looking pretty pleasant as the main swath of cloudiness holds off until after sunset.

    PM Update: Nice now, stormy later Ian Livingston 2010

  • The Michoud Assembly Facility east of New Orleans and the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., both were located along the main swath of the storm's devastation.

    Boing Boing: August 28, 2005 - September 3, 2005 Archives 2005

  • Bill Cosby tried, Chatter, but he got attacked for his sexual piccadilloes (a method used to silence his otherwise pithy words about what’s wrong with these certain young blacks - BTW, let’s not paint any other blacks with this brush …. the swath is narrow … it only includes those young men and women who commit the crimes and intimidate others).

    Pizza Joints Refuse Westhaven Delivery at 2005

  • GRACE: Jim, how large of a swath is the Gulf Coast going to take the hit?

    CNN Transcript Sep 22, 2005 2005

  • The "swath" she is winning may be the racially intolerant white voters. liar, liar, pants on fire

    Schneider: Obama not a satisfying choice for KY Democrats 2008

  • I had a great time, but I know I only saw a tiny "swath" of what was going on over the weekend, and some of the other 77,000 fans who attended have been reporting back as well.

    Archive 2009-02-12 Book Nerd 2009

  • I had a great time, but I know I only saw a tiny "swath" of what was going on over the weekend, and some of the other 77,000 fans who attended have been reporting back as well.

    The Word (and pictures) from New York Comic Con Book Nerd 2009

  • I saw the "yellow brick road" as some kind of swath of leopard-print fabric.

    Supermom VS the Diabolical Decorator of Doom Jen 2008

  • He said, usually you see some kind of swath if there's been a tornado.

    CNN Transcript Oct 31, 2005 2005

  • UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Randy Tom here, from your bird's eye view as Bill said, are you able to see any kind of swath that this storm basically carved through Florida or is it just too wide a thing to see from the air?

    CNN Transcript Aug 14, 2004 2004


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • "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

  • 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

  • Thanks Bilby and everyone else.

    September 26, 2010

  • 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