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“Swole” or “Swoll”, short for “swollen,” is a slang term used to describe someone who has developed a large or well-defined physique from weight lifting.
The earliest online definition of the term was submitted by Online Slang Dictionary user Dan P. on April 27th, 1998, identifying the word as a synonym for “muscular.”
In Hip Hop
The earliest known usage of the term in hip hop lyrics comes from the song “When I Get Free,” which was released posthumously on the album Until the End of Time for the late rapper by Tupac Shakur on March 27th, 2001 (shown below, left). The song includes the lyrics “did push ups till I swole up” in reference to time Shakur had spent exercising in prison. On June 30th, 2010, the rapper Rock Solid uploaded a music video to YouTube for his song “Swole,” which included footage of himself working out at the gym (shown below, right).
On November 25th, 2002, Urban Dictionary user Phat E submitted an entry for the word “swoll,” defining the term as ebonics for the word “swollen” achieved from lifting weights at the gym. On March 13th, 2003, WannaBeBig Forum member GIS submitted a thread titled “The term ‘swole’”, which questioned why the term had become popular. On December 20th, 2004, BodyBuilding Forums member marcFE submitted a thread titled “What the heck does ‘swoll’ mean?” On September 14th, 2005, Boxden Forums member CapoStatus4k submitted a thread asking if doing push ups could make him “get swole.” On November 5th, 2006, YouTuber skaterfrek09 uploaded a music video titled “Swole Guy,” which featured animated pictures of the former California governor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger (shown below).
On February 7th, 2007, GetBig Forums member thisiskeitch12 submitted a thread asking how to correctly spell the term. On March 15th, 2008, Yahoo Answers member Everett M submitted the question “How do I get swole?”, which included the description “swole is black talk for buff.” On November 6th, 2009, the Twitter feed @SwollProblems was created, featuring first world problems and other complaints about being muscular and physically fit (shown below).
Can’t go to the gym today due to the fact I can’t fit through the door #swollproblems
— Swoll Problems (@SwollProblems) July 17, 2012
On October 21st, 2010, the Tumblr blog “Swole Foods” was created, featuring photos and recipes for post-workout meals. On March 28th, 2012, the “Get Swole” Tumblr was launched, which featured photographs of bodybuilders and inspirational quotes related to lifting weights and physical fitness. On May 26th, the /r/swoleacceptance subreddit was created, which served as a satirical forum for muscular individuals to discuss prejudice they experience in day-to-day life. On October 17th, the youth culture blog Vice published a post titled “Swole,” featuring several photographs of bodybuilders posing. Posts related to lifting and physical fitness can be found on Tumblr under the tag “#swole” and several fitness-related Facebook pages have been created with the word “swole” in the title.