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self-propulsion through water, often as a form of recreation or exercise or as a competitive sport. It is mentioned in many of the classics in connection with heroic acts or religious rites. The first book on methods of swimming was Nicolas Wynman's Dialogue Concerning the Art of Swimming (1538). Swimming calls more muscles into play with exact coordination than most other sports, and its high repetition of movement makes it extremely beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

Swimming Strokes

Swimming strokes should create the least possible water resistance; there should be a minimum of splashing so that forward motion is smooth and not jerky. The stroke most commonly used to attain speed is the crawl, standardized in Australia (hence sometimes called the Australian crawl) and perfected in the United States. In the crawl the body is prone; alternating overarm strokes and the flutter kick are used, and the head remains in the water, the face alternating from side to side. The trudgen stroke (named for an English swimmer whose speed made it famous), also involves alternate overarm strokes in a prone position, but a scissors kick is used and the head remains on one side. The backstroke is done in a supine position and in racing requires alternate over-the-head arm strokes and a flutter kick. The elementary backstroke involves alternation of the frog kick with simultaneous strokes of the arms, which are extended at shoulder level and moved in an arc toward the hips. The sidestroke, a relaxed movement, entails a forward underwater stroke with the body on one side and a scissors kick. The breaststroke can also be a restful stroke and is accomplished in a prone position; frog kicking alternates with a simultaneous movement of the arms from a point in front of the head to shoulder level. The most difficult and exhausting stroke is the butterfly; second only to the crawl in speed, it is done in a prone position and employs the dolphin kick with a windmill-like movement of both arms in unison. It is mastered by only the best swimmers. The dog paddle, a very simple stroke that takes its name from the way a dog swims, is done by reaching forward with the arms underwater and using a modified flutter kick.

In freestyle swimming any stroke may be used, but the crawl, considered the speediest, is almost always favored. No matter what the stroke, breathing should be easy and natural, since the specific gravity of the human body, although it varies with the individual, is almost always such that the body floats if the lungs are functioning normally. In races, facility in diving from a firm surface is essential, except in the backstroke.

Competitive Swimming

Swimming became organized as an amateur sport in the late 19th cent. in several countries. Its popularity increased with the development and improvement of the swimming pool, and swimming was part of the first modern Olympic Games (1896). Olympic events for women were included in 1912. Today Olympic swimming events comprise the 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-, 800- (women), and 1,500-meter (men) freestyle races; 200- (men), 400-, and 800-meter (women) freestyle relay races; the 400-meter medley (mixed stroke) relay; 100- and 200-meter backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly races; 200- and 400-meter individual medley races; springboard and high diving events (see diving, springboard and platformdiving, springboard and platform,
sport of entering the water from a raised position, often while executing tumbles, twists, and other acrobatic maneuvers. In most dives the upper part of the body enters the water first, and the arms are extended straight over the head.
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); water polowater polo,
swimming game encompassing features of soccer, football, basketball, and hockey. The object of the game is to maneuver, by head, feet, or hand, a leather-covered ball 27 to 28 in.
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; and women's synchronized swimming. Improvements in swimsuits have contributed to faster times in many race events, most controversially in 2009 when polyurethane suits led to many new records at the world championships. Polyurethane were subsequently banned from competition; full-body suits were also banned. Among the more successful American Olympic swimmers have been John Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, Esther Williams, Don Schollander, Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi, Janet Evans, and Michael Phelps. Among non-Olympic distance events, swimming the English Channel has been most publicized. The first confirmed crossing was made (1875) by Matthew Webb of England; Gertrude Ederle of the United States was the first woman to perform (1926) this feat. Swimming has never achieved sustained success as a professional sport.


See F. Oppenheim, The History of Swimming (1970); J. E. Counsilman, The Complete Book of Swimming (1977); D. F. Chambliss, The Making of Olympic Swimmers (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the locomotion of animals in an aquatic environment. Different animals are variously adapted for swimming. Aquatic and semiaquatic animals, which spend their entire life or the greater part of their life in water, swim actively or passively. Terrestrial animals swim only actively, when it is necessary to overcome a water barrier.

Actively swimming animals move by means of various paddling organs. Such organs include the cilia or flagella of many protozoans, worms, and larvae; the ciliated plates of ctenophores; the antennae and thoracic and abdominal legs of crustaceans; and the limbs of turtles, swimming birds, and such mammals as pinnipeds, otters, and beavers. Locomotion by means of wavelike flexing of the body or unpaired fins characterizes whales, most fishes, caudate amphibians, snakes, nemertines, leeches, appendicularians, and the larvae of ascidians and amphibians. The body flexes either horizontally or vertically. Movement by reactive means is achieved in some animals by expulsion of water from some part of the body. The animal moves in the direction opposite to that of the water expelled. Medusae, cephalopod mollusks, salps, Pyrosomatidae, and the larvae of some insects swim in this fashion.

Animals capable only of passive swimming, that is, those that are carried along by the currents, have adaptations to keep the body suspended. Such adaptations include the vacuoles in the external protoplasmic layer in radiolarians and the air bubbles in colonies of siphonophores.

Sharks, mackerel, and tuna swim at speeds of 20 km/hr and greater. Flying fishes, before they enter the air, move at a speed approaching 65 km/hr. The swordfish reaches a speed of 130 km/hr. The hydrostatic orientation of fishes and the reflex regulation of their movements are usually functions of the swim bladder. (See BIOMECHANICS and MOVEMENT.)


Granit, R. Osnovy reguliatsii dvizhenii. Moscow, 1973. (Translated from English.)



a sport that includes competitive swimming, various practical swimming, skin diving, and synchronized (artistic) swimming. Swimming may also be part of a medical treatment program, a form of recreation, or a component of various sports.

Swimming meets include events in which competitors swim from 100 to 1,500 m. The three strokes used are the crawl, breast stroke, and butterfly (dolphin butterfly). Practical swimming includes diving for length and depth, lifesaving, and overcoming water obstacles. In synchronized swimming, swimmers perform acrobatics in the water and on land to music; the swimmers may perform alone, in pairs, or in groups. Swimming is part of various games played in the water.

Swimming is fundamental to water polo and a component of the modern pentathalon and sailors’ combined events in aquatic sports. It is an essential part of the training of athletes engaged in motorboating, sailing, and diving.

Although swimming has been known to man since the most ancient times, it became a sport only at the turn of the 16th century. One of the first swimming meets was held in Venice in 1515. In 1538 the Dane N. Winman published the first swimming manual. The first swimming schools were organized in the second half of the 18th century and in the early 19th in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and France. The first swimming pools were constructed in the mid-19th century. The sport of swimming became especially popular in the late 19th century. In

Table 1. USSR and world swimming records1
Distance (m)Stroke, eventWorldUSSR
  Time2HolderCountry YearTime2HolderCityYear
1Individual records for Olympic distances 2In minutes and seconds 3German Democratic Republic
100 . . . . .Freestyle51.22M. SpitzUSA 197251.77V. V. BureMoscow1972
200 . . . . . . .Freestyle1:52.78M. SpitzUSA 19721:54.81V. V. BureMoscow1973
400 . . . . . . .Freestyle3:58.18R. DeMontUSA 19734:06.3V. V. BureMoscow1973
1,500 . . . . . .Freestyle15:31.85S. HollandAustralia 197316:12.3V. O. ParinovAshkhabad1973
100 . . .Breast stroke1:04.02J. MenckenUSA 19731:04.61M. G. KhriukinVoronezh1973
200 . . . . . . .Breast strok e2:19.28D. WilkieGreat Britain 19732:23.47M. G. KhriukinVoronezh1973
100 . . .Butterfly54.27M. SpitzUSA 197357.8V. K. NemshilovSochi1969
200 . . . . . . .Butterfly2:00.70M. SpitzUSA 19722:06.8V. M. SharyginMoscow1972
100 . . .Backstroke56.30R. MatthesGDR3 197259.1I. A. GrivennikovMoscow1972
200 . . . . . . .Backstroke2:01.87R. MatthesGDR 19732:11.3L. V. DobroskokinVolgograd1971
200 . . . . . . .Medley2:07.17G. LarssonSweden 19722:10.86S. V. ZakharovAstrakhan1973
400 . . . . . . .Medley4:30.81G. HallUSA 19724:37.05S. V. ZakharovAstrakhan1973
100 . . .Freestyle57.54K. EnderGDR 19731:00.8T. A. ShelofastovaLeningrad1973
200 . . . . . . .Freestyle2:03.56S. GouldAustralia 19722:10.4T. A. ShelofastovaLeningrad1973
400 . . . . . . .Freestyle4:18.07K. RotthammerUSA 19734:35.1T. A. ShelofastovaLeningrad1973
800 . . . . . . .Freestyle8:52.97N. CalligarisItaly 19739:23.4E. lu. BurmenskaiaNoril’sk1972
100 . . . . . . .Breast stroke1:13.58C. CarrUSA 19721:14.7G. N. ProzumenshchikovaMoscow1971
200 . . . . . . .Breast stroke2:38.50C. BallUSA 19682:40.7G. N. ProzumenshchikovaMoscow1970
100 . . . . . . .Butterfly1:02.31K. EnderGDR 19731:06.38A. L. MeerzonLeningrad1973
200 . . . . . . .Butterfly2:13.76R. KotherGDR 19732:21.27N. V. PopovaKharkov1973
100 . . .Backstroke1:04.99U. RichterGDR 19731:06.97T. Sh. LekveishviliTbilisi1972
200 . . . . . . .Backstroke2:19.19M. BeloteUSA 19722:26.54l. V. GolovanovaAlma-Ata1973
200 . . . . . . .Medley2:20.51A. HuebnerGDR 19732:26.9N. L. PetrovaMoscow1972
400 . . . . . . .Medley4:57.51G. WegnerGDR 19735:13.4N. L. PetrovaMoscow1972

1890 the first European swimming championships were held, and since 1896 swimming has been included in the Olympics. In 1908 the International Amateur Swimming Federation (FINA) was organized; it included 96 national federations in 1973. The European Swimming League (LEN) was formed in 1924.

Swimming was not a widespread sport in prerevolutionary Russia. In the early 20th century there were seven primitive indoor swimming pools and only 1,500 persons were engaged in the sport. Because training sessions were conducted primarily in open water during the summer, results were poor. The first Russian swimming championships were held in Kiev in 1913, and the first swimming competitions in the USSR were held in Moscow in 1918. In Petrograd in 1920, V. N. Peskov organized the Dolphin Sports Society, which had an outdoor pool. During the 1920’s several swimming schools were opened in Moscow, and in 1921 the first all-Russian swimming championships were held in the Moskva River. Swimming competitions were included in the USSR Spartakiads in 1928, with USSR championship competitions held on a regular basis thereafter.

The first indoor swimming pools were opened in Leningrad in 1927 and in Moscow in 1930 and 1931. The pools allowed athletes to train throughout the year and helped prepare swimmers who surpassed the European and world records of the time. Noted swimmers of the period include L. K. Meshkov, S. P. Boichenko, V. V. Ushakov, A. M. Shumin, V. F. Kitaev, K. I. Aleshina, and M. V. Sokolova. Mass interest in swimming was linked to the implementation of universal military training, of which swimming was an important part. Swimming was made a compulsory part of the Ready for Labor and Defense of the USSR complex at all stages in 1931 and 1932, and this too contributed to the popularization of the sport. It became a basic discipline at institutes and technicums of physical culture and in the physical-education departments of higher educational institutions of pedagogy.

In the late 1940’s construction began on modern pools for use in winter and summer. In 1973 there were more than 1,000 pools, which were used by more than 2 million persons.

Soviet swimmers have participated regularly in international competitions since the USSR swimming section joined FINA in 1947 (becoming the All-Union Federation in 1959) and LEN in 1949. Soviet swimmers have taken part in the Olympics since 1952 and in European championships since 1954. The greatest successes have been achieved by Olympic champion G. N. Prozumenshchikova and by various Olympic and European champions, including Kh. Kh. Iunichev, V. V. Konoplev, V. N. Nikitin, G. G. Androsov, L. N. Kolesnikov, V. I. Sorokin, V. V. Kuz’min, G. la. Prokopenko, S. V. Babanina, V. I. Kosinskii, V. G. Mazanov, S. V. Belits-Geiman, N. I. Pankin, I. A. Grivennikov, I. I. Pozdniakova, and V. V. Bure. Important contributions to methods of instruction, coaching, and modern swimming technique have been made by Honored Coaches of the USSR E. L. Alekseenko, V. V. Bure, T. V. Drobinskaia, L. A. Ioakimidi, V. N. Kashutina, N. M. Nesterova, and O. V. Kharlamova. Educators who have made fundamental contributions in these areas include S. M. Vaitsekhovskii, A. A. Van’kov, I. V. Vrzhesnevskii, L. V. Gerkan, V. F. Kitaev, M. Ia. Nabatnikova, B. N. Nikitskii, V. A. Parfenov, Z. P. Firsov, G. P. Chernov, and A. S. Chikin.

In 1973 the first world swimming championships were held in Belgrade, with the best team performances turned in by swimmers from the USA, the German Democratic Republic, Australia, and the USSR. See Table 1 for USSR and world records.


Plavanie. [Textbook.] Moscow, 1965.
Butovich, N. A., and V. I. Chudovskii. Krol’—bystreishii sposob plavaniia. Moscow, 1968.
Iniasevskii, K. A. Trenirovka plovtsov vysokogo klassa. Moscow, 1970.
Counsilman, J. Nauka o plavanii. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from English.)
Vasil’ev, V., and B. Nikitskii. Obuchenie deteiplavaniiu. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about swimming?

Bodies of water are natural symbols of both the unconscious and the emotions. Dreaming about swimming can thus be related to the emotions or to an exploration of one’s unconscious (a natural dream image for someone undergoing therapy). Also, because we spend the first nine months of our lives in a liquid environment, swimming is also a symbol of birth or rebirth.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


If you are swimming in your dream, you are most likely swimming through the “ocean” of your unconscious and through the “sea” of your emotions. The ease with which you are doing this activity will give you clues as to how well you are navigating through those very complex parts of yourself. Are you out of your depth or winning a race?
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
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