If you run many applications at once, each of them is using memory (random access memory, or RAM). It is possible to fill up your RAM in which case your computer will likely become exceedingly slow, and in fact appear to stop functioning.
Linux uses the idea of swap memory to extend RAM with disk space. Then, even if all your applications are using more memory than available in RAM, you can still continue working. But only until you fill up the swap space as well, but at least you may notice the swap being used and it will take longer to fill up the swap as well as the RAM.
Swap partitions (a separate part of the storage or disk memory) and swap files (a file on the part of the storage or disk that you can see in your system) can be considered as extra (but slower) RAM!
A good solution to resolving the need for swap is actually to add more RAM to your computer, if you can.
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