Source: Russia Is On A 'Holy Mission' And The West Doesn't Get It


In his State of the Union address, Obama displayed similar swag and bluster against both the Kremlin and congressional Republicans, seemingly without regard for any recent events. As the president explained: ...

I hear it a lot, but what does this slang word really mean?

  • Please don't make trivial edits to older questions. Actually and really are synonyms, and used can stay (there's no practical difference between hear it used often and hear it often).
    – user3395
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 20:21
  • @userr2684291 Okay. Got it. Commented May 18, 2018 at 21:14

6 Answers 6



February 01, 2018, the OED has recently added the word swag in its dictionary. Oxford Online Dictionaries reports

A new entry has been added for swag, derived from swagger, and used in slang to denote ‘bold self-assurance in style or manner’, or ‘an air of great self-confidence or superiority’. The OED’s first citation for this particular sense comes from the track ‘December 4th’ on Jay-Z’s The Black Album (2003): ‘My self-esteem went through the roof, man. I got my swag.’ This is the fifth OED citation attributed to Jay-Z.

A glossarial example of the word from the previous year, in a self-described dictionary of hip-hop terminology, defined swag as simply ‘walk’.


(October 12, 2016)

“Obama displayed similar swag and bluster …”

In his sixth State of the Union Address, President Obama said:

We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leadsnot with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve (Applause).
From whitehouse.gov, January 20, 2015

The swag appears to be a clipped form of swagger, which the article accuses President Obama of doing. In the speech, the ‘swag’ refers to America standing strong, unafraid of Russia, and determined to enforce sanctions. The bluster, according to the author, is Obama's words whose tone was possibly concealing a threat to Putin. The fact that Obama asserted America did not engage in bluster, was telling the audience that America was not afraid of taking further action if necessary.

talk intended to seem important or threatening but which is not taken
seriously and has little effect

to walk, esp. with a swinging movement, in a way that
shows that you are confident and think you are important

Cambridge Dictionary

  • If you were a lexicographer, would you add the word swag and the definition "a clipped form of swagger" to your dictionary based on this one attestation?
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 19:45
  • 1
    So far no one has provided any evidence that that word swag is a clipped form of swagger. It could be a malapropism. Or it could be a bit of new slang. Or it could be authorial license. We don't know at this point. IMO, conjectures should be offered as comments, not answers.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 20:03
  • On the off chance someone else thinks my answer is presumptuous, I am at pains to point out the following: The swag appears to be a clipped form of swagger, I said "appears" for a good reason. There's nothing dogmatic in my answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:32
  • When I read "swag" I assumed they really meant "swagger", but I'm old so my slang is a bit outdated. snopes.com claims *It is instead a corruption of the Scandinavian svagga, meaning "to rock unsteadily or lurch" and entered the English language in the 13th or 14th century. Etymology online echoes snopes and says the earliest recorded usage of swagger was in Midsummer Night's Dream.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 12:48
  • Hmm this is interesting though: rturk.expertscolumn.com/article/… Apparently "swag" is different from "swagger". Though it may seem that the word "swag" came as a result of abbreviating the word "swagger," the two have seemingly taken on much different definitions recently. The source isn't authoritative though.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 12:58

Another use of swag in the same story:

Obama likewise seems to think that a bit of swag, plus a public taunt, aimed at Putin when the former KGB man is down on his luck will have the desired geopolitical effect.

The word actually means what the dictionary definitions, including the one posted by CopperKettle, say it means. However, sometimes authors are unaware of what words actually mean (how other people use them). If the author is using swag as short for swagger he is either using it in error or trying to use it to have two meanings at once. In either case his usage is so esoteric it escapes the common reader. A third possibility is that I am unaware that swag is short for swagger.

  • I'm not completely sure yet, but I did some googling and "swag and bluster" appears to be a fixed phrase. This might be a case where reference works have it wrong, and the phrase has to be understood as creative rhetoric, drawing the listener's feeling for the language. I need to look into it more, though. If I find something, I'll post a new answer. (Or you might beat me to it.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 22:47

there is a difference between swag & swagg. What the writer ought to use here is swagg, which means style, something that sets you apart from the others.


My understanding of the word swag means fool materialistic cool stuff, features and promotional warez. For e.g. I went to a concert and bought some of the swag. Hats, T-Shirts, Key Chain etc. In addition e.g. I went to a live TV show recording and the audience members were given a swag bag.


Swag generally means to have or do something that is "cool" features. This is term is often used to describe a person i.e.: Your example. S.W.A.G stands for stuff we all get, and generally describes give-aways such as samples or trials, at conventions or events.

  • 5
    This is what swag generally means, but I don't think this is the right meaning for the question. Obama was displaying free stuff and giveaway samples in his State of the Union address??
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 5:22
  • I gave two meaning that was the second one. Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 5:23
  • 3
    Obama was displaying cool features in his State of the Union address??
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 5:24
  • The first part says it also means to do or act cool Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 5:27
  • 4
    Obama was acting cool in his State of the Union address?? It might help if you included in your answer an explanation of why this meaning makes sense in the context provided in the question.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 5:29

'SWAG' is the small bundle tied to a stick with one posseions in it , ie - AUS A jolly SWAG man" a drifter. Also what a 'house breaker'US, 'burglar'UK, a SACK used to carry my...er...his loot in.

  • 2
    This answer does not explain how this meaning works in the context of the sentence in the question.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 8:51
  • 2
    While this is a correct definition of swag, it is not the one used in the context of the quotation in the question.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 9:08

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