What does Swag mean?

Swag is a slang term that stands for stuff we all get and describes promotional merchandise that’s usually bagged and given away to participants at an event. Because it’s a slang term, It should only be used in casual settings. Typical swag-type items include company-branded pens, keychains, and prizes. It can be used as a noun, verb, and a modifier.

When used as a noun, it can mean someone is confident or even cocky. Swag can also mean something is cool when used in the correct context.

History of Swag

The term has been around since the 14th century, where it was originally a synonym for swaying or lurching, but it has since evolved to its current meaning. It’s believed to be derived from the Scandanavian word svagga, which means to sway or rock. The first known use of the current meaning of free goodies dates back to the 19th century when an 1815 magazine refers to stolen items as swag. This definition evolved to mean free items that are given away with the owner’s consent, which came about around the 1960s. The future meaning of swag will likely evolve as history has proven thus far.

How to use swag

Event coordinators and event attendees will refer to swag as the goodies being given away.

  • “I’m so excited to see the swag Webopedia gives away this year at their event.”
  • “Are all the swag bags packaged and ready to go?”
  • “Did you grab the swag from that event?”

Using swag to mean cool or confident:

  • “Wearing nice clothes will give anyone serious swag.”
  • “That person over there has swag.”
  • “These jeans are swag!”


Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.
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