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Swath vs. swathe

Swath is only a noun. It refers to (1) the width of a scythe stroke, (2) a path made by mowing, or (3) something likened to a path made by mowing. Today, it’s usually used in the third, figurative sense.

Swathe is usually a verb, meaning, primarily, to wrap or bind with or as if with bandage. It also functions as a noun meaning a wrapping or bandage, but it is rarely used this way in today’s English.

Examples

Swath


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Doherty represents a large swath of suburban New Jersey where resentment toward the extra funding of low-income schools runs deep. [NPR]

Fresh fruit and vegetables surged 11.3 per cent last month after Cyclone Yasi cut a swath through banana plantations in Queensland. [Herald Sun]

But after swiftly capturing swaths of the country, pro-Ouattara forces have met fierce resistance in Abidjan in the past four days. [Guardian]

Swathe

Rotting drainpipes, embedded in the school’s interior walls and swathed in asbestos, are difficult to reach and repair. [NJ.com]

Dr Christina Brunner then ordered nurses to swathe the unconscious woman in bandages and not report the accident … [Mirror]

Wounded Warrior was held together with a sturdy swathing of duct tape. [Colorado Springs Gazette]

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Comments

  1. But what is correct: “A swathe of fabric” or “A swath of fabric”?

  2. “Swath of fabric” is more correct.

  3. Easy to remember if you compare it with bath/bathe. You can’t get into the bathe but you can get into the bath (or bath-tub if you are American) – so use bath as the noun, and bathe as the verb (eg, she bathes in warm water; he bathes the baby). Yes, you can also bath the baby (hen using the verb transitively) but you only have to remember that you can’t get into the bathe. In the same way that bathe is the verb, swathe is the verb. And as bath is a noun, swath is a noun.

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