Swift Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This guide will provide you with details on the meaning of swift with information on how to use it, synonyms, etymology, examples, and more!

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We use certain words all day every day, and sometimes, we never give them a second thought. We have a general sense of what they mean, and that’s good enough, right? Right!?

Learning more about the words we use can give depth and meaning to them beyond our basic understandings. You might even find a new favorite word when you know more about its history and meaning. Let’s take a deeper look at the word swift.

What Is the Meaning of the Word Swift?

The word swift has definitions as an adjective, an adverb, and a noun. To understand the word’s full meaning, you should look at the word in each form. 

Swift as an Adjective

As an adjective, swift has several definitions. Here are the definitions of swift as an adjective:

  • Moving or capable of moving with great velocity or speed; rapid
  • Coming, performed, or happening quickly or without delay
  • Quick to respond or prompt to act
  • (slang meaning) quick to understand; smart; clever; quick to perceive

You may see the word used as swifter (swift-er) or swiftest (swift-est). 

Swift as an Adverb

As an adverb, swift maintains roughly the same meaning as when it is an adjective, but when used as an adverb, the word becomes swiftly (adv).

Swift as a Noun

As a noun, the word swift has a few different definitions that you may not know. Here are the definitions of swift as a noun:

  • Any of the numerous swallowlike, long-winged birds in the Apodidae family and the hemiprocnidae family. These are related to the hummingbirds and are known for their rapid fight.
  • Tree swift
  • Spiny lizard
  • Any of several brown or gray moths that are also called a swift moth (swift-mawth, moth) or ghost moth. The males of the swift moths will usually have white wings, and the moths belong to the family Hepialidae. They are also known for their rapid flight.
  • An adjustable device that a holds a hank of yarn while skeins or balls of yarn are wound off; also used for winding skeins of silk or wool
  • The main cylinder on a flax carding machine

What Is the Origin of the Word Swift?

A word’s history is also called its etymology. When we look into a word’s past, we can see how the word has evolved and how it has stayed the same. Sometimes, we better understand why we pronounce words a certain way by knowing where they come from — and sometimes, we learn that a word has stood the test of time and stayed the same for centuries. It’s always interesting to see the story of common words.

Swift can trace its roots from Middle English to Old English swift, and those roots go back to the Germanic base of the Old English swīfan. Swifan means to move in a course or sweep. 

Swift can be traced back to Old High German sweib. It also comes from the Proto-Germanic “swip-” which means swivel. In the Old World, you can find its roots in Old Norse svīfa. Old Norse svifa meant “to rove.” Swift also has roots in Old Frisian swīvia

In Biology

The small bird named swift has been references since way back in the 17th century. In the 1660s, several species of the Cypselidæ family and swallowlike birds of the family Apodidae were named swifts due to their rapid flight. They were seen as a bird of ill-omen because of their rapid movement and narrow wings. 

Before this, swift actually referred to  several small lizards who were also very quick in the 1520s. These lizards would have belonged to the family Iguanidae. As you can imagine, iguanas belong to that family. Other qualifying species of lizards would be North American lizards of the genera Sceloporus and Uta. 

When Do You Use the Word Swift?

Typically, you will hear the slang use of the word swift to describe a person’s aptitude for cleverness. You might also hear it to describe how quickly someone or something performed. 

You will be familiar with a swift in the textile industry because it is a necessary part of the machine for carding flax

If you’re familiar with Apple products, you may know Swift as a programming language used to create macOS and iOS applications.

In banking, the SWIFT network is used by financial institutions worldwide. The SWIFT network allows banks to move money from one country to another consistently and universally. Financial transactions are sent and verified using bank identifier codes, and because of the SWIFT network, it takes only a short time to send money around the globe. You can quickly send money from the UK, Ireland, or anywhere.

Before the SWIFT network, banks relied on the TELEX system, but the SWIFT network, like the dictionary says, is much faster.

Swift is also a common last name. For example, you may have heard of the Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift.

What Are the Synonyms for the Word Swift?

Synonyms are an excellent way to identify words that have essentially the same meaning as the word we’re studying to help you further understand what a word means and how it’s used. Here are a few synonyms for the word swift:

  • Fast
  • Rapid
  • Sudden
  • Prompt
  • Immediate
  • Instant
  • Hurried
  • Hasty
  • Precipitate
  • Abrupt
  • Punctual
  • Instantaneous
  • Quick
  • Brisk
  • Lively
  • Speedy
  • Breakneck

What Are the Antonyms for the Word Swift?

Antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning of a word. When you understand what a word does not mean, you have a better grasp of what it means and how best to use it in context. Here are a few antonyms for the word swift:

  • Slow
  • Sluggish

What Are Some Examples for How To Use the Word Swift?

Example sentences give us a peek at how to use a word correctly. Even if it is a word we’ve been using for as long as we can remember, it’s still a good idea to review example sentences because you may learn a new way to use the word or see a better way to use it in context. 

Here are some example sentences for using the word swift:

  • I caught a glimpse of the white wing of the swift moth, and I knew it was the male.
  • I always win because I am a swift runner.
  • I’m not sure if we connect so quickly because of our swift network or our swift system.
  • The swift current is dangerous even for experienced swimmers.
  • My revenge will be swift and without warning.
  • She picked up on that rather swiftly.
  • They think I’m swift because I read so many novels.

The Last Word

We should never assume that we know so much about a word that we can’t stand to learn a bit more. We may use words regularly for most of our life, but learning about the background, synonyms, antonyms, and even example sentences can give us even more understanding and increase the meaning behind the words we choose. Now that you know more about the word swift, you might be inclined to use it more swiftly than before.


  1. ADW: Apodidae: INFORMATION | University of Michigan
  2. Textiles: Carding – Craft Revival | Western Carolina University
  3. What Losing SWIFT Network Access Means for Russian Banks | Maryland Smith