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

  • intransitive v. To increase in size or volume as a result of internal pressure; expand.
  • intransitive v. To increase in force, size, number, or degree: Membership in the club swelled.
  • intransitive v. To grow in loudness or intensity: "The din in front swelled to a tremendous chorus” ( Stephen Crane).
  • intransitive v. To bulge out, as a sail.
  • intransitive v. To rise or extend above the surrounding level, as clouds.
  • intransitive v. To rise in swells, as the sea.
  • intransitive v. To be or become filled or puffed up, as with pride, arrogance, or anger.
  • intransitive v. To rise from within: Rage swelled within me.
  • transitive v. To cause to increase in volume, size, number, degree, or intensity: The governor's full public disclosure only swelled the chorus of protests.
  • transitive v. To fill with emotion.
  • n. The act or process of swelling.
  • n. The condition of being swollen.
  • n. A swollen part; a bulge or protuberance.
  • n. A long wave on water that moves continuously without breaking.
  • n. A rise in the land; a rounded elevation.
  • n. Informal One who is fashionably dressed or socially prominent: society swells.
  • n. Music A crescendo followed by a gradual diminuendo.
  • n. Music The sign indicating such a crescendo.
  • n. Music A device on an instrument, such as an organ or harpsichord, for regulating volume.
  • adj. Informal Fashionably elegant; stylish.
  • adj. Informal Excellent; wonderful: had a swell time.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A long series of ocean waves, generally produced by wind, and lasting after the wind has ceased.
  • n. A gradual crescendo followed by diminuendo.
  • n. A device for controlling the volume of a pipe organ.
  • n. A division in a pipe organ, usually the largest enclosed division.
  • n. A hillock or similar raised area of terrain.
  • n. A person who is dressed in a fancy or elegant manner.
  • n. A person of high social standing; an important person.
  • v. To become bigger, especially due to being engorged.
  • v. To cause to become bigger.
  • adj. Excellent.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having the characteristics of a person of rank and importance; showy; dandified; distinguished
  • n. The act of swelling.
  • n. Gradual increase.
  • n. Increase or augmentation in bulk; protuberance.
  • n. Increase in height; elevation; rise.
  • n. Increase of force, intensity, or volume of sound.
  • n. Increase of power in style, or of rhetorical force.
  • n. A gradual ascent, or rounded elevation, of land.
  • n. A wave, or billow; especially, a succession of large waves; the roll of the sea after a storm.
  • n. A gradual increase and decrease of the volume of sound; the crescendo and diminuendo combined; -- generally indicated by the sign.
  • n. A showy, dashing person; a dandy.
  • intransitive v. To grow larger; to dilate or extend the exterior surface or dimensions, by matter added within, or by expansion of the inclosed substance
  • intransitive v. To increase in size or extent by any addition; to increase in volume or force
  • intransitive v. To rise or be driven into waves or billows; to heave.
  • intransitive v. To be puffed up or bloated.
  • intransitive v. To be inflated; to belly.
  • intransitive v. To be turgid, bombastic, or extravagant
  • intransitive v. To protuberate; to bulge out.
  • intransitive v. To be elated; to rise arrogantly.
  • intransitive v. To grow upon the view; to become larger; to expand.
  • intransitive v. To become larger in amount.
  • intransitive v. To act in a pompous, ostentatious, or arrogant manner; to strut; to look big.
  • transitive v. To increase the size, bulk, or dimensions of; to cause to rise, dilate, or increase.
  • transitive v. To aggravate; to heighten.
  • transitive v. To raise to arrogance; to puff up; to inflate.
  • transitive v. To augment gradually in force or loudness, as the sound of a note.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To grow in bulk; bulge; dilate or expand; increase in size or extent by addition of any kind; grow in volume, intensity, or force: literally or figuratively, and used in a great variety of applications.
  • To belly, as sails; bulge out, as a cask in the middle; protuberate.
  • To rise in altitude; rise above a given level.
  • To be puffed up with some feeling; show outwardly elation or excitement; hence, to strut; look big: as, to swell with pride, anger, or rage.
  • To rise and gather; well up.
  • To increase the bulk, size, amount, or number of; cause to expand, dilate, or increase.
  • To inflate; puff up; raise to arrogance.
  • To increase gradually the intensity, force, or volume of: as, to swell a tone. See swell, n., 4.
  • n. The act of swelling; augmentation in bulk; expansion; distention; increase in volume, intensity, number, force, etc.
  • n. An elevation above a level, especially a gradual and even rise: as, a swell of land.
  • n. A wave, especially when long and unbroken; collectively, the waves or fluctuations of the sea after a storm, often called ground-swell; billows; a surge: as, a heavy swell.
  • n. In music: A gradual increase and following decrease in loudness or force; a crescendo combined with a diminuendo. Compare messa di voce.
  • n. The sign ⟨ or ⟩, used to denote the above.
  • n. A mechanical contrivance in the harpsichord and in both the pipe-organ and the reed-organ by which the loudness of the tones may be varied by opening or shutting the lid or set of blinds of a closed box, case, or chamber within which are the sounding strings, pipes, or vibrators.
  • n. Same as swell-box, swell-keyboard, swell-organ, or swell-pedal. See also organ, 6.
  • n. In a cannon, an enlargement near the muzzle: it is not present in guns as now made.
  • n. In a gunstock, the enlarged and thickened part.
  • n. In geology, an extensive area from whose central region the strata dip quaquaversally to a moderate amount, so as to give rise to a geologically and topographically peculiar type of structure.
  • n. In coal-mining, a channel washed out or in some way eroded in a coal-seam, and afterward filled up with clay or sand. Also called, in some English coal-fields, a horse, and in others a want; sometimes also a horse-back, and in the South Wales coal-field a swine-back.
  • n. A man of great claims to admiration; one of distinguished personality; hence, one who puts on such an appearance, or endeavors to appear important or distinguished; a dandy: as, a howling swell (a conspicuously great swell).
  • n. In a stop-motion of a loom, a curved lever in the shuttle-box, which raises a catch out of engagement with the stop or stop-finger whenever the shuttle fairly enters the shuttle-box, but which, when the shuttle fails to enter, permits such engagement, thus bringing into action mechanism that stops the loom. Compare stop-motion.
  • First-rate of its kind; hence, elegant; stylish.

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

  • v. come up (as of feelings and thoughts, or other ephemeral things)
  • n. a man who is much concerned with his dress and appearance
  • n. the undulating movement of the surface of the open sea
  • n. a rounded elevation (especially one on an ocean floor)
  • v. increase in size, magnitude, number, or intensity
  • v. cause to become swollen
  • v. come up, as of a liquid
  • v. expand abnormally
  • adj. very good
  • n. a crescendo followed by a decrescendo
  • v. become filled with pride, arrogance, or anger


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

Middle English swellen, from Old English swellan.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English swellen, from Old English swellan ("to swell"), from Proto-Germanic *swellanan (“to swell”), of unknown origin. Cognate with Dutch zwellen ("to swell"), German schwellen ("to swell"), Swedish svälla ("to swell").


  • * I have decided that "swell" is the word for February.

    Busy weekend, oh yes

  • From the head of the lawn, on the first soft swell from the valley-level, looked down the deep-porched, many-windowed house.

    The Southland

  • To let his brain swell and keep the blood flowing, thereby preventing the damage from worsening, doctors removed virtually the entire left side of his skull, a procedure known as a craniectomy.

    Traumatic brain injury leaves an often-invisible, life-altering wound

  • A night of calm, when sleep is well-nigh impossible in the sultry, muggy air, may be followed by a day of blazing sun and an oily swell from the south'ard, connoting great gales in that area of ocean we are sailing toward -- or all day long the Elsinore, under an overcast sky, royals and sky sails furled, may plunge and buck under wind-pressure into a short and choppy head-sea.


  • I'm all for a sound and reasoned approach to any health and govt budget concerns, but what has been allowed to naturally and artificially swell is so close to a forest fire that the extremist who started it should face some type of charge and not a "Thank you" from like winged.

    DNC paints Pawlenty as liar

  • HURRAY – looks like a grassroots swell is a-comin '!!!

    Specter faces angry crowd at town hall meeting

  • The first native to surf a German swell is said to have been Uwe Drath, a lifeguard on Sylt, in 1952.

    Munich’s Malibu

  • Miami saw the margin swell to 12 midway through the second quarter and then to 15 when Wade soared past Desmond Mason and Collison for what became a three-point play with 2.8 seconds remaining in the third, as cries of ` ` M-V-P!

  • A night of calm, when sleep is well - nigh impossible in the sultry, muggy air, may be followed by a day of blazing sun and an oily swell from the south'ard, connoting great gales in that area of ocean we are sailing toward -- or all day long the Elsinore, under an overcast sky, royals and sky sails furled, may plunge and buck under wind-pressure into a short and choppy head-sea.

    Chapter 27

  • What's the long term swell forecast for this winter?

    North Coast Journal Comments


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  • It’s comforting to know that a dandy swell is the same thing as a swell dandy.

    September 18, 2011

  • Also a good meaning, seanahan. As long as it's not the meaning related to, say, the condition your foot might be in after it's run over. ;-)

    February 3, 2007

  • I prefer the meaning related to waves.

    February 2, 2007

  • Golly, this is a swell word!

    February 1, 2007