Swab, swagger and other swanky “swa” words

While getting a COVID-19 test recently, I started thinking about what a weird word “swab” is.

Say it out loud a few times.

Swab. Swab. Swab.

It doesn’t even seem like an actual word.


It is, though, and when you take a stab at examining swab, you’ll see that there are more “swa” words than you thought possible

So, here is some information for you on swab and several other “swa” words.

Swab – Swab is interesting because it is a noun and a verb and can be used in a bunch of different ways, even as an insult. A swab can be a mop, absorbent material on the end of a stick, a specimen taken with a swab, a sailor, a contemptible person or even a verb to describe cleaning. Here is an example: At my COVID-19 test, I used a swab to swab a swab out of my nose.

Swabber – This is someone who swabs. If you think about it, all of us swab at one time or another, so we are all swabbers. It’s comforting to me to think about that.

Swabbie – This is a term for a sailor, and according to some dictionaries it can also be spelled swabby. I hear it most often with pirate ships, as pirate captains seem to enjoy talking to their swabbies.

Swami – A swami is a religious leader or ESPN personality Chris Berman making his predictions for NFL games. If a sailor is a religious leader, that person would be a swami swabbie.

Swatch – A swatch is a sample piece (often fabric), a paint sample or a small collection. You might say, for example, “That swabbie’s swatch of clothing fell off of his hat while he was swabbing.”

Swath – This is a long strip or belt, or a row that has been cut. “The swabbie cut a swath through the pile of swabs.”

Swathe – To swathe is to bind, wrap or swaddle, as with a bandage. “Use this swab to put a swab of medicine on the cut, then swathe it with this swatch of fabric.”

Swaddle – This means to envelop or swathe. You often hear people talking about swaddling a baby. I’m honestly surprised more adults don’t ask to be swaddled in blankets. I think it sounds sweet.

Swashbuckler – This is a daring adventurer, who is also often swaggering. This is a fun word. If I were a pirate (I am not a pirate), I’d like to be described as a swashbuckling swabbie from the swamp.

Swallow – Don’t swallow a swab.

Swanky – Swanky has a different “a” sound, but is always fun  to say. I like to go to swanky restaurants.

Swat – You hit or bash something when you swat it. People often talk about giving something “a good swat.” You rarely hear about “a bad swat.”

Swan – This is a type of bird or a dive, or perhaps even a song.

Swam – The past tense of swim, you might say the swan swam and swayed.

Swarm – A swarm is a large number of items in motion, usually bees. I suppose you could have a swarm of swans, and that would be swell.

Swagger- This means to walk or act in a confident way. I am positive that if you use a lot of “swa” words in your everyday speaking, it will either add to your swagger or get you swatted.

So what have we learned today?

Well, first of all, it’s crazy just how many “swa” words there are. I didn’t list them all here, but there are a lot!

And while swab still doesn’t seem like a real word, it is a fun word to use as much as possible. Swab.

Also, I hope to someday become either swashbuckling or swaddled.

And finally, always remember that no matter where you are or who you are, we’re all swabbers.

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