English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'd just like to know where it comes from. This is a word that I've heard all my life but it has always been a special kind of curtain. I was baffled when kids started calling each other curtains so I googled it and I just found these bullshit answers like secretly we are gay or sex with a ginger, which are obviously not what swag means.

What is swag and where does the word come from?

share|improve this question

migrated from skeptics.stackexchange.com May 20 '13 at 11:59

This question came from our site for scientific skepticism.

Im going to try to get this migrated to english.se (but bare with me, ive not done this before) – Jamiec May 20 '13 at 11:23
Swag also means goods that someone has stolen. See ldoceonline.com/dictionary/swag – Tristan May 20 '13 at 12:52
@Tristan: It's also commonly used for gifts and other "freebies" that are voluntarily given/available to be taken. – FumbleFingers May 20 '13 at 13:44
@Tristan: it's used even in the best circles: meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/1353/8019. But it is clearly a humorous extension of the past 'burglar's swag' meaning; I don't suppose real thieves use it any more than they wear masks and striped jerseys. – TimLymington May 20 '13 at 14:29
Tim, that's an interesting comment but still strange. Up until now, I had only ever heard of swag used to mean stolen goods, in the context of children's stories which included illustrations of a burglar wearing what you mentioned and carrying a sack with the word "swag" written on it. Maybe in my simple life, I'm just not very trendy. – Tristan May 20 '13 at 15:06

Swag as a dictionary entry traditionally has several meanings, including the one you're referencing.

Swag as a slang word has its roots in "swagger".

Swagger: A very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive gait or manner

It refers to a way your present yourself; having style, confidence, etc. Using the term is so popular among young people that it's generated quite a bit of backlash, especially among the internet culture. "Secretly We Are Gay" and the like are simply backronyms that serve to make fun of people.

share|improve this answer

In Australia a "swag" is the personal possessions of someone travelling, usually on foot. Because they were rolled in a blanket, the term has come to mean a type of waterproof sleeping bag that covers the head. "Once a jolly swag-man..."

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Nov 2 '15 at 11:03

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?