Got swag? Oxford Dictionaries does: new sense enters the dictionary
‘Swag’ has a long and diverse history, and the way the word is used continues to shift and change today. It’s no wonder Oxford Dictionaries users have been looking up ‘swag‘ a lot!
Despite its widespread familiarity today, as well as its ubiquitous presence in celebrity news, the word ‘swag’ has actually been around since at least the 1300s. Early on, the word had several meanings that are now obsolete, such as ‘a bulgy bag’, ‘a big blustering fellow’, and ‘a pendulum’.
However, it wasn’t until at least the 1700s that the word began to take on a slangier flavor, when it came to mean money or goods taken by a thief or a burglar. In more recent years, ‘swag’ has continued to develop colloquial offshoots: as of 1961, it’s used informally to refer to products given away for promotional purposes…
the swag included down vests, fleeces, shoulder bags and small suitcases to carry all the loot home
…and as of 1986, to low-grade marijuana.
I wouldn’t waste my time smoking swag!
Now, in the 21st century, there’s a promotional tote bag in every closet and cannabis laws continue to change across the globe. These are two good reasons why Oxford Dictionaries users are looking up ‘swag’ as much as they have been. However, no discussion of the word would be complete without acknowledging its most popular – and recently added – current meaning, seen in examples like:
Not only does he have a great voice, but he’s got swag.
Probably a shortening of swagger, this is the meaning we now arguably see and hear most often, and is likely to be the meaning many of you are looking for: ‘bold self-assurance of manner or style’. Though apparently long disavowed by Justin Bieber (who is still popularly associated with the word), it seems as though swag is here to stay regardless. It must, like the people it’s used to describe, have a certain je ne sais quoi.