Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. a small bird whose tail has two points like a fork

2. a movement in your throat that makes food or drink go down into your stomach

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun swallow meaning the migratory bird first appeared in English in the 8th century. The second meaning above is related to a noun that dates from the 12th century, although this meaning was not used until the early 19th century. The two words are unrelated, even though they are both of Germanic origin.


The arrival of the swallow, like that of the cuckoo, indicates that summer is on its way. The well-known saying ‘one swallow does not make a summer’ is a warning not to assume that one positive event means that others will follow. Swallows arriving in the UK have travelled thousands of miles from their winter homes in sub-Saharan Africa, often covering 200 miles per day. They like to nest in the nooks and crannies of outbuildings such as barns, garages and sheds, building nests of mud reinforced with plant material. They feed on insects which they catch on the wing, and are acrobatic fliers, swooping low over water or dashing through the narrowest of gaps with great ease.


“True hope is swift, and flies with swallow‘s wings.”
(William Shakespeare)

“Then the concerts came to an end, the weather turned bad and my girls left Balbec, not all at once, as the swallows leave, but within the same week.”
(Marcel Proust)

Related words

house martin, swift

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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