Swanning around and swanning about

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Swanning around and swanning about are idioms that have a fairly recent origin. We will look at the meaning of the phrases swanning around and swanning about, where the terms come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Swanning around and swanning about mean to move about aimlessly, irresponsibly and in a carefree manner. Related terms are swan around or about, swans around or about, swanned around or about. When the terms swanning around and swanning about first appeared in the late nineteenth century, they simply described the process of swimming like a swan. Today’s meaning of the term swanning about has its origins in World War II, interestingly. At that time, swanning around and swanning about described the movements of tanks in battle, in seemingly aimless maneuvers. The term made its way into mainstream English to mean anyone moving about in an irresponsibly carefree or aimless pattern. Swanning around and swanning about are primarily British terms, they are rarely seen in the United States.


But while their immeasurable grief continues, the gangster who caused them so much pain is swanning around a top ­security hospital living a “cushy” life. (The Mirror)

String quartets and costumed actors performed classics at the Playhouse; the Westminster Choir sang, Isadora Duncan danced on the stage, and Ruth St. Denis and her Denishawn Dancers swanned around the terraced lawn under the moon. (The East Hampton Star)

Brewer has swanned around the consultancy and advisory circuit for most of the past decade, after a stint running Denis O’Brien’s Caribbean telco, Digicel and also its rival, Cable & Wireless. (The Irish Times)

Since the show has finished, I have had the chance to meet the British Women’s Olympic Canoe Team, swanned around with the baking glitterati at various food shows and fairs, been on weekly radio shows, and been featured on local TV and press. (The Telegraph)