Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A country lad, especially a young shepherd.
  • n. A beau.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A knight's servant; an attendant.
  • n. A country labourer; a countryman, a rustic.
  • n. A rural lover; a male sweetheart in a pastoral setting.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A servant.
  • n. A young man dwelling in the country; a rustic; esp., a cuntry gallant or lover; -- chiefly in poetry.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A young man or boy in service; a servant.
  • n. A young man in attendance on a knight; a squire.
  • n. A man dwelling in the country; a countryman employed in husbandry; a rustic.
  • n. Hence A country gallant; a lover or sweetheart generally.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a man who is the lover of a girl or young woman

Etymologies

Middle English, young man, servant, from Old Norse sveinn; see s(w)e- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old Norse sveinn, from Proto-Germanic *swaina-, *swainaz (“relative, young man, servant”), from Proto-Indo-European *se- (“aside, separated, apart”). Cognate with Old English swān. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • 'I protest,' cried Sir Sedley to Camilla, tis your favourite swain from the Northwick assembly! wafted on some zephyr of Hope, he has pursued you to Tunbridge.

    Camilla: or, A Picture of Youth

  • 'You lump the gold and make it current coin; -- says the blushing bride, who ought not to have delivered herself so boldly, but she had forgotten her bashful part and spoilt the scene, though, luckily for the damsel, her swain was a lover of nature, and finding her at full charge, named the very next day of the year, and held her to it, like the complimentary tyrant he was.'

    One of Our Conquerors — Volume 1

  • She was in a bitter state of trepidation, or she would have thought twice before she touched a nerve of the enamoured lady, as she knew she did in calling her swain a poor brute, and did again by pertinaciously pursuing:

    Evan Harrington — Volume 4

  • Watteau-like figures, -- tall damsels in slim waists and with spread enough of skirt for a modern ballroom, with bowing, reclining, or musical swains of what everybody calls the "conventional" sort, -- that is, the swain adapted to genteel society rather than to a literal sheep-compelling existence.

    Complete Project Gutenberg Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Works

  • I do have to say that I loved the photo of the young lady with her 'swain' in his kilt..very very classy.

    A Linktastic Friday to End All Linktastic Fridays - A Dress A Day

  • There was no more chanting from the wells: only shuffle and creak, the cox'swain's count, the thresh of the wheels overside.

    Three Worlds To Conquer

  • "Why, look'ye, when I've seen so many pretty fellows knocked off the ship's roll altogether, don't you think I ought to be thankful if I can answer the bo'swain's call anyhow?"

    Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

  • You want your kingdom in Virginia; and if you listen to my opinion, the little misfortune which has happened to your swain is a piece of great good-fortune to you.”

    The Virginians

  • Your "swain" is a criminal and is blackmailing you?

    NEWS.com.au | Top Stories

  • Behn fast-forwards in the second stanza to "Blooming May", and enjoys elaborating on the spring-time celebrations from which the unhappy "swain" must be excluded.

    Culture | guardian.co.uk

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • “Who is Celia? What is she? That all her swains commend her?” -- Otto Waltz. From Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut.

    If you ever want to scare people the way Otto Waltz did, this word should be in your vocabulary.

    December 9, 2012

  • "A jovial swain should not complain of any buxom fair / Who mocks his pain and thinks it gain to quiz his awkward air."

    An ingenious couplet notable for containing all letters of the English alphabet save one.

    March 18, 2009