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According to my research, "to swim a lap" means to swim lengthwise from one end to the other end of a pool.

In Vietnamese, we say "could you swim a circle/ a loop of the pool?" (literally translated) to mean to swim from one end to the other end and then get back to where you start.

So, when I swam 2 laps, I swam 2 lengths of a pool but it does not imply to swim from one end to the other end and then get back to where you start.

Can we say "could you swim a loop/ a circle?" to mean to swim from one end to the other end and then get back to where you start?

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  • If two people are in the same lane, pool rules on the wall will often say: Swim in a circle. Obviously, when you do that, you are also swimming a lap. Loop is not used to describe swimming laps, either with or without another person in your lane. Your drawing should show lanes in a pool for this purpose.
    – Lambie
    Jan 20, 2023 at 17:22
  • @Lambie, when you say "swim in a circle", people might think you are circling in the middle of the pool and not touching the 2 ends of the pool.
    – Tom
    Jan 20, 2023 at 17:34
  • It is quite annoying to not believe someone who takes the time to patiently explain it and who clearly know what she is talking about. Now, you can see for yourself.
    – Lambie
    Jan 20, 2023 at 17:59
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    @Lambie To a layperson, such as myself, if someone told me to swim in a circle I might well think to swim round and round in the middle of a pool which didn't have lane markers or floaters (whatever those things are called!).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 20, 2023 at 20:14
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    If I couldn't read a link, (left my mobile somewhere) or had no access to the Internet I would think that swim in a circle meant what I said earlier. I said "if a layperson" because I acknowledge you know your stuff and I did actually watch the video, but what I'm trying to say is that the expression could be easily misinterpreted by a normal i.e. layperson.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 20, 2023 at 23:08

2 Answers 2

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Swimming from one end to the other would be called swimming a length.

Swimming from one end to the other and then back to the start would be called swimming two lengths. If you said, "Could you swim two lengths of the pool" it would be understood to be asking to swim back to the starting point.

A lap would probably mean two lengths to me, but I'd use the term more in a running race around a track. To others it means one length. It could also (in context) mean once around the edge of the pool.

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  • No, this website says "** if you swim from one side of the pool to the other it counts as one lap (and a length is the same as a lap).**" (swimcompetitive.com/swimming-guides/what-is-a-lap-in-swimming).
    – Tom
    Jan 21, 2023 at 1:47
  • That's not how people at my gym use the word. Perhaps its another British/American thing.
    – James K
    Jan 21, 2023 at 1:51
  • This website says "A lap refers to swimming from one end of the pool to the next. Without a doubt, it’s one end of the pool to the other. It’s not back and forth." evanmorrison.com/swim/posts/lap-vs-length-pool-swimming
    – Tom
    Jan 21, 2023 at 1:55
  • This website says "One lap in swimming is defined as the distance from one end of the pool to the other end of the pool. This is also known as a length. Despite popular belief, a lap is not down and back." athleteapproved.com/one-lap-in-swimming-defined
    – Tom
    Jan 21, 2023 at 1:57
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    Looks like I'm with the "popular belief" -- ie the common way that language is used by native speakers, rather then the technical meaning in competitive swimming (I'm not a competitive swimmer - far from it)
    – James K
    Jan 21, 2023 at 2:10
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WHAT IS CIRCLE SWIMMING?

Circle swimming is a way for multiple swimmers to swim laps in a single lane. The main keys to circle swimming are to stay on the right side of the lane and to be mindful of your lane mates.

circle swimming

The term loop is not used.

YOUTUBE video from the US MASTERS

Circle swimming

US MASTERS

When you swim in a circle in a lane, you are also swimming a lap. This is used in American English and British English.

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