sweep / swēp/ • v. (past swept / swept/ ) 1. [tr.] clean (an area) by brushing away dirt or litter: I've swept the floor Greg swept out the kitchen. ∎ [tr.] move or remove (dirt or litter) in such a way: she swept the tea leaves into a dustpan. ∎ [tr.] move or push (someone or something) with great force: I was swept along by the crowd. ∎ [tr.] brush (hair) back from one's face or upward: long hair swept up into a high chignon. ∎ search (an area) for something: the detective swept the room for hair and fingerprints. ∎ examine (a place or thing) for electronic listening devices: the line is swept every fifteen minutes. ∎ cover (an entire area) with a gun: they were trying to get the Lewis gun up behind some trees from where they would sweep the trench. 2. [intr.] move swiftly and smoothly: a large black car swept past the open windows | fig. a wave of sympathy swept over him. ∎ [tr.] cause to move swiftly and smoothly: he swept his hand around the room. ∎ (of a person) move in a confident and stately manner: she swept magnificently from the hall. ∎ (of a geographical or natural feature) extend continuously in a particular direction, esp. in a curve: green forests swept down the hillsides. ∎ [tr.] look swiftly over: her eyes swept the room. ∎ affect (an area or place) swiftly and widely: violence swept the country | [intr.] the rebellion had swept through all four of the country's provinces. ∎ [tr.] win all the games in (a series); take each of the winning or main places in (a contest or event): we knew we had to sweep these three home games. • n. 1. an act of sweeping something with a brush: I was giving the floor a quick sweep. ∎ short for chimney sweep. 2. a long, swift, curving movement: a grandiose sweep of his hand. ∎ a comprehensive search or survey of a place or area: the police finished their sweep through the woods. ∎ Electr. the movement of a beam across the screen of a cathode-ray tube. ∎ (often sweeps) a survey of the ratings of broadcast stations, carried out at regular intervals to determine advertising rates. 3. a long, typically curved stretch of road, river, country, etc.: we could see a wide sweep of country perhaps a hundred miles across. ∎ a curved part of a drive in front of a building: one fork of the drive continued on to the gravel sweep. ∎ fig. the range or scope of something: the whole sweep of the history of the USSR. 4. inf. a sweepstake. 5. an instance of winning every event, award, or place in a contest: a World Series sweep. 6. a long heavy oar used to row a barge or other vessel: [as adj.] a big, heavy sweep oar. 7. a sail of a windmill. 8. a long pole mounted as a lever for raising buckets from a well. PHRASES: a clean sweepsee clean. sweep the board (or boards) win every event or prize in a contest. sweep someone off their feetsee foot. sweep something under the rug (or carpet) conceal or ignore a problem or difficulty in the hope that it will be forgotten.PHRASAL VERBS: sweep something away (or aside) remove, dispel, or abolish something in a swift and sudden way: Nahum's smile swept away the air of apprehensive gloom.
A. remove with or as with a broom or brush; clear (a surface) in this way XIII;
B. intr. move with a strong or swift even motion XIV. ME. swēpe, repl. ME. swōpe (OE. swāpan), either by extension of the vowel ē of the pt. (OE. swēop), or by development ī to ē in OE. *swipian (pt. swipode) scourge, or ON. intr. svipa.
Hence sweep sb. in many uses covered by the definitions ‘act of sweeping’ (from XVI) and ‘apparatus for sweeping’ (from XV); in the sense ‘chimney-sweeper’ (XIX) preceded by chimney-sweep and †sweep-chimney (both XVII). Comp. sweepstake †one who takes the whole of the stakes in a game XV; †total removal XVI; (prize won in) a contest in which the stakes are contributed by the competitors XVIII.
sweep the house with broom in May, you sweep the head of the house away proverbial saying, late 19th century; broom was traditionally associated with witchcraft, and flowering broom was thus considered unlucky, and likely to be a harbinger of death in any house into which it was brought.
See also new brooms sweep clean.