swell

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

Aviation

  • noun a long wave on water that moves continuously without breaking

Food

  • noun a can that is bulging at one or both ends because of gases produced by spoilage of the food inside

Medical

  • verb to become larger, or cause something to become larger

Publishing

  • noun a particularly thick part of sewn sections, caused by the thread

Slang

  • noun a well-off single woman, in yuppie argot of the late 1980s. An acronym (‘single woman earning lots of lolly’) also recalling the dated description of a fashionable ‘person-about-town’.

Origin & History of “swell”

Swell comes from prehistoric Germanic *swellan, a verb of unknown origin which also produced German schwellen, Dutch zwellen, and Swedish svälla. Its use as an adjective, meaning ‘fine’, emerged at the beginning of the 19th century. The notion underlying it is ‘suitable to a swell, a fashionable or stylish person’; and this application of the noun swell probably arose out of an earlier use for ‘swollen’ or pompous behaviour.
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