The Past Tense of Swim: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

If you have ever been curious about the correct past tense of swim, this article will clear that up plus give you a look into the history of the word, the definition, and everything else you could want to learn about using the word in the English language. 

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What Is the Definition of the Word Swim?

The English verb swim is defined as:

  • : to propel oneself in water by natural means (such as movements of the limbs, fins, or tail)
  • to play in the water (as at a beach or swimming pool)
  • to move with a motion like that of swimming: GLIDE
    • a cloud swam slowly across the moon
  • to float on a liquid: not sink
  • to surmount difficulties: not go under 
    • sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish— Daniel Webster
  • to become immersed in or flooded with or as if with a liquid 
    • potatoes swimming in gravy
  • to have a floating or reeling appearance or sensation
  • to cross by propelling oneself through water 
    • swim a stream
  • to cause to swim or float
  • a smooth gliding motion
  • a temporary dizziness or unconsciousness
  • an area frequented by fish
  • the main current of activity

How Do You Conjugate Swim?

Here are the other verb conjugations of the irregular verb swim:

Base Form (Infinitive):


Simple Past Tense:


Past Participle:


Simple Present Tense, Third Person Singular, He/She/It:


Present Participle/Gerund:


Past Perfect: 

Had Swum

Present Perfect Tense:

Have swum

The History and Origin of the Word


The Old English word swimman, to move in or on the water,  is from the Proto-Germanic word swimjan from PIE root swem, which means to be in motion. It has been said this word is unique to German, however other languages such as Welsh, Irish, and Lithuania. In the 15th century the figurative phrase sink or swim was used in the events there was a suspected witch. In the 1500s the transitive sense meant to cross by swimming. To reel or move unsteadily was used in the late 1600s, and in the 1700s swim was used to refer to the head, for example, my head is swimming. 


In the 1540s the word swim was used to describe the clear part of a body of water above the sediment. In the 1800s the word was used by fishermen to describe part of a river where fish frequently visit. This century also used the word in a figurative sense meaning the current or latest affairs. The simple act of swimming was used in the 1700s for example, I am going for a swim. 

Synonyms of Swim

  • Reel- to turn or move round and round
  • Spin- the act of spinning or twirling something
  • Turn- to cause to move around an axis or a center: make rotate or revolve
  • Whirl- to move in a circle or similar curve especially with force or speed
  • Blackout-  a transient dulling or loss of vision, consciousness, or memory 
  • an alcoholic blackout
  • Faint- weak, dizzy, and likely to faint 
    • sick and faint from the pain— Jack London
  • Insensibility- incapable or bereft of feeling or sensation: 
    • lacking sensory perception or ability to react 
    • Insensible to pain
  • Knockout- the act of knocking out: the condition of being knocked out
  • Swoon- a partial or total loss of consciousness
  • Syncope- loss of consciousness resulting from insufficient blood flow to the brain: FAINT

Example Sentences With the Word Swim


  •  I am swimming in the ocean. 
  •  The room swam before my eyes.


  • the merest glimpse of blood sends him into a swim.
  • I am going for a swim. 

Examples of the Word in Context


Next time you need to write the word swim, you will be well prepared for everything you need to know what it is and how to use it efficiently within English grammar. You should feel confident with the different conjugations, the history of the word, and the definition.