What the hell is SWAG?

Found this term used commonly around in reference, I believe, to products for sale. I know of “Wild Ass Guess” and “Scientific Wild Ass Guess” but those wouldn’t make sense in the context that I keep seeing it.
I’ve looked it up in the dictionary and swag is partially defined as: “stolen loot”, which also doesn’t make sense in the forementioned context.

So what is it then?

Swag is most commonly used today to describe free promotional junk you get from vendors at conventions etc. Free Tshirts, keychains, etc, usually inscribed with a vendor’s name.

SWAG==Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.
Swag==loot, booty, treasure.

Take your pick.

The Online Slang Dictionary gives the following definition:

swag n 1. material; STUFF. (“I won some swag from a local radio station.”)

I have always understood it to mean plunder or stolen goods.

We always described that stuff as “Vendor Vomit”, as in: “The vendor vomited up a whole box of pens, and two notepads.”
[sub]My first simulpost![/sub]

I see swag referred to all the time as a term for freebies at things like club openings and CD release parties. Is that the context you’re talking about? So I’d guess they’re riffing on the ideal of “stolen loot”.



“As usual, Boundless [a club in Toronto] has a heap of swag to raffle off, but wristband holders will have to pay the $5 admission or make a donation to enter the draws.”

But in doing the search on this, I also came across:


“CHRISTMAS EDWARDIAN TEA Tour Benares Historic House and relive the elegant Edwardian era. Later on, enjoy afternoon tea and make Christmas swag from ferns, roses and other decorations.”



Eventually, I realized head shops were total scams, forcing me to make several repeat purchases of the same Stones shirt, which would shrink into a dishrag after two spin cycles. But the Yonge Street swag shacks of today are even bigger scams, with $20 T-shirts, tacky “I Love Toronto” postcards and none of that threatening mystique. I first entered the head shop a naive suburbanite looking for classic rock keepsakes and came out a punk rock convert with a mind blown wide open.

So it looks like swag can be:

  1. free stuff at a club event
  2. chintzy stuff, particularly stuff you get at head shops.
  3. Hi Opal!


Quintuple simul post! Is that a record? :wink:

My first post and it’s a legitimate answer to a question. Kind of.

SWAG stands for “stuff we all get.” Which makes sense since you don’t have to be special to get it–it’s just promotional crap that they give to everyone.

Since they’ve so often proved wrong before, I tend to have an automatic doubt when a word origin is explained as an acronym. It does show up with many interpretations in the Acronym Finder, but they don’t offer cites for where they found them. Most were surely assigned after the word came into a particular use.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a better explanation. Swag in the sense of a draped decoration appears to be of Icelandic origin, according to dictionary.com, but they don’t show an origin for the slang term referring to stolen property. This slang term seems surely where the current meaning of ‘free stuff’ originates.

The Word Detective hasn’t covered this word. I’ll submit the question, but it will doubtless take a while for him to reasearch and write a column on it.

At Microsoft, the employees have two different words. One is SWAG, for “stuff we all get”, and SWAT, for "stuff we all take.

Microsoft is notorious for giving clients free junk, aside from the occasional embroidered polo. Also monogrammed Koosh® Balls, foam rubber stress balls, pens, stationary etc.

Like the word suggests. Stolen patch cords, CDR’s, microwaves, you name it. Alot of Microsoft employees figure that “the company can afford it so why not?”

Don’t forget the song “Waltzing Matilda”; that’s another use of the word (for an Australian anyways). First line - “there once was a swagman, camped beside a billabong…” A wandering-type traveler who carries whatever he owns on his back. This is similar to the other older definitions; sort of refering again to general junk that’s not particularly valuable in a dollar sense that people have or accumulate.

Try this:

Obviously, a lot of answers here, but the first one that came to mind for me was that of fabric/drapery, ie “a swag of cloth.” 'Course, my familiy is in the crafts business, so YMMV.

Actually, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about swag:

“Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore
Galloping through the sward
Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore
And his horse Concorde
He steals from the rich
And gives to the poor
Mr Moore, Mr Moore, Mr Moore…”