Swagger: “To behave with an air of superiority, in a blustering, insolent, or defiant manner; now esp. to walk or carry oneself as if among inferiors, with an obtrusively superior or insolent air” (OED). Also a noun: a swaggering movement or gait; boastfulness; braggadocio (American Heritage Dictionary).
Shakespeare may have been the first to use the verb in print, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1600):
What hempen homespunnes haue we swaggring here, So neere the Cradle of the Fairy Queene?
Jonathan Swift turned swagger into a noun in his 1725 poem, “A New Song on Wood's Halfpence”:
The butcher is stout, and he values no swagger;
A cleaver’s a match any time for a dagger...
Swagger may derive from the much earlier swag, which also was a verb before it was a noun. In the early 1520s swag meant “to move with an unsteady gait”; it probably came from Old Norse sveggja, to swing or sway. I’ll have more to say about swag (and also schwag) in another post later this week. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at swagger in the news and in the ads.