February 04, 2013
- swerve (verb)
- What does it mean?
- : to turn aside suddenly from a straight line or course
- How do you use it?
- The moose stepped into the road, and we swerved to avoid hitting it.
- Are you a word wiz?
What does the Old English word that gave us "swerve" mean?If you chose D, you're right! "Swerve" traces to the Old English word "sweorfan," which means "to wipe." So how did we get from "wipe" to "turn aside?" Probably by a process called "extension." The motion you make when you wipe something is also the same motion made when you deflect a blow from a sword, and that is our very earliest use of the verb "swerve." From there, the verb gained the sense of turning to avoid something. "Swerve" has been used in English since the 1200s.