“They were seduced” vs. “They were swayed”

I ran across the verb “sway” a little while ago and I was wondering about its usage. See:

They were seduced by the low cost of the house.

And

They were swayed by the low cost of the house.

Both are correct, right? But in this context, which one fits better? Perhaps either? If so, then what’s the difference? I understand its meaning, in this specific case, as something similar to “influence” – am I wrong to think this way?

Now, see the following scenario:

I was seduced by her lips.

And

I was swayed by her lips.

In this case, do “seduced” and “swayed” express the same thing?

Answer

The two words can overlap, but fundamentally they are different.

The relevant meanings, from the OED are:

seduce, 2. In wider sense: To lead (a person) astray in conduct or belief; to draw away from the right or intended course of action to or into a wrong one; to tempt, entice, or beguile to do something wrong, foolish, or unintended.

sway, 12. trans. To cause (a person, his actions, conduct, or thoughts) to be directed one way or another; to have weight or influence with (a person) in his decisions, etc.

So, they were swayed by the low cost of the house simply says that the cost was the factor (or the main factor) which led them to reach their decision, with an implication that they were leaning towards a different choice. They were seduced by the low cost of the house implies not just that the cost changed their minds, but that it led them to make a bad choice in some sense: dishonest, or disloyal, or not keeping their word, or perhaps just not in their own best interests.

In your second pair of sentences, where there is no particular choice implied, seduce implies a physical (and probably sexual) surrender, while sway does not really make sense: I would take it to mean that there was some specific choice which hadn’t been mentioned.

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