Meaning of “swim” in the English Dictionary

"swim" in British English

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uk /swɪm/ us /swɪm/ present participle swimming, past tense swam, past participle swum

swim verb (MOVE IN WATER)

A1 [ I or T ] to move through water by moving the body or parts of the body:

We spent the day on the beach but it was too cold to go swimming.
Her ambition is to swim (across) the English Channel.
I swam two miles this morning.
be swimming in/with sth disapproving

If food is swimming in/with a liquid, it has too much of that liquid in it or on it:

The salad was swimming in oil.

More examples

  • I used to swim twice a week, but I seem to have got out of the habit recently.
  • We want clean rivers and lakes, where you can swim without risk to your health.
  • He used to swim for his country when he was younger.
  • Who was the first person to swim the English Channel?
  • We swam ashore.

swim verb (SEEM TO MOVE)

[ I ] (of an object) to seem to move around:

Getting up too suddenly made the room swim before her eyes.

[ I ] If your head swims, you feel confused and are unable to think or see clearly:

After the second or third drink, my head began to swim.

swimnoun [ S ]

uk /swɪm/ us /swɪm/

A2 a time when you swim:

Let's go for/have a swim this afternoon.

More examples

  • We went for a swim to cool off.
  • I had a quick swim and then got changed.

Thesaurus: synonyms and related words

noun [ C ] uk /ˈswɪm.ər/ us /ˈswɪm.ɚ/


Oliver is a very strong swimmer.
noun [ U ] uk /ˈswɪm.ɪŋ/ us /ˈswɪm.ɪŋ/


  • a swimming competition/gala
  • a swimming instructor/lesson


(Definition of “swim” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"swim" in American English

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swimverb [ I/T ]

us /swɪm/ present participle swimming, past tense swam /swæm/ , past participle swum /swʌm/

to move through water by moving parts of the body:

[ I ] He jumped in the river and swam.
[ T ] Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel.
noun [ C ] us /swɪm/

Let’s go for a swim this afternoon.
noun [ C ] us /ˈswɪm·ər/

Katy is a good swimmer.
noun [ U ] us /ˈswɪm·ɪŋ/

Swimming is excellent exercise.

(Definition of “swim” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)