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[spuhnj] /spʌndʒ/
any aquatic, chiefly marine animal of the phylum Porifera, having a porous structure and usually a horny, siliceous or calcareous internal skeleton or framework, occurring in large, sessile colonies.
the light, yielding, porous, fibrous skeleton or framework of certain animals or colonies of this group, especially of the genera Spongia and Hippospongia, from which the living matter has been removed, characterized by readily absorbing water and becoming soft when wet while retaining toughness: used in bathing, in wiping or cleaning surfaces, etc.
any of various other similar substances, often porous rubber or cellulose, used for washing or cleaning.
a person or thing that absorbs something freely:
His mind is a sponge gathering historical data.
a person who persistently borrows from or lives at the expense of others; sponger; parasite.
Informal. a drunkard.
Metallurgy. a porous mass of metallic particles, as of platinum, obtained by the reduction of an oxide or purified compound at a temperature below the melting point.
Surgery. a sterile surgical dressing of absorbent material, usually cotton gauze, for wiping or absorbing pus, blood, or other fluids during a surgical operation.
  1. dough raised with yeast, especially before kneading, as for bread.
  2. a light, sweet pudding of a porous texture, made with gelatin, eggs, fruit juice or other flavoring material, etc.
a disposable piece of polyurethane foam impregnated with a spermicide for insertion into the vagina as a contraceptive.
verb (used with object), sponged, sponging.
to wipe or rub with or as with a wet sponge, as to moisten or clean.
to remove with or as with a wet sponge (usually followed by off, away, etc.).
to wipe out or efface with or as with a sponge (often followed by out).
to take up or absorb with or as with a sponge (often followed by up):
to sponge up water.
to borrow, use, or obtain by imposing on another's good nature, friendship, hospitality, or the like:
He sponged 40 bucks from his friend and went to the city.
Ceramics. to decorate (a ceramic object) by dabbing at it with a sponge soaked with color.
verb (used without object), sponged, sponging.
to take in or soak up liquid by absorption.
to gather sponges.
to live at the expense of others (often followed by on or off):
He came back home and sponged off his family for a while.
throw in the sponge, Informal. to concede defeat; yield; give up:
The early election returns were heavily against him, but he wasn't ready to throw in the sponge.
Origin of sponge
before 1000; (noun) Middle English, Old English < Latin spongia, spongea < Greek spongiā́; (v.) Middle English spongen to clean with a sponge, derivative of the noun
Related forms
spongeless, adjective
spongelike, adjective
spongingly, adverb
unsponged, adjective
6. leech. 12. wash. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sponging
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Essentially, sponging made sure there were no sparks in the bore when the new charge was put in.

  • I found Susan sponging his shirt-front, and Susan and I are as good as engaged.

  • As I was sponging the dry and parched lips, I glanced at the picture of her whom he loved so well.

    The Flying Bo'sun Arthur Mason
  • Mixed with water it is cooling and invigorating for sponging the body.

  • I've been up to see the United States Commissioner an' got charts of the sponging grounds an' took out papers for the ship.

  • Daily sponging of the patient with tepid water (85 to 90 F.) should be practiced.

  • Large, shiny, horizontal-leaved plants require a weekly sponging to remove the inevitable dust which settles on them.

    Small Gardens Violet Purton Biddle
  • I'm to be a poor, crawling beggar, sponging for rum, when I might be rolling in a coach!

    Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
  • When Emily came to she found Mrs. Shagarach sponging her forehead, while her son was washing his hands in a basin of bloody water.

    The Incendiary W. A. (William Augustine) Leahy
British Dictionary definitions for sponging


any multicellular typically marine animal of the phylum Porifera, usually occurring in complex sessile colonies in which the porous body is supported by a fibrous, calcareous, or siliceous skeletal framework
a piece of the light porous highly absorbent elastic skeleton of certain sponges, used in bathing, cleaning, etc See also spongin
any of a number of light porous elastic materials resembling a sponge
another word for sponger (sense 1)
(informal) a person who indulges in heavy drinking
leavened dough, esp before kneading
(Brit) Also called sponge pudding. a light steamed or baked pudding, spongy in texture, made with various flavourings or fruit
porous metal produced by electrolysis or by reducing a metal compound without fusion or sintering and capable of absorbing large quantities of gas: platinum sponge
a rub with a sponge
throw in the sponge, See throw in (sense 4)
(transitive; often foll by off or down) to clean (something) by wiping or rubbing with a damp or wet sponge
(transitive; usually foll by off, away, out, etc) to remove (marks, etc) by rubbing with a damp or wet sponge or cloth
when tr, often foll by up. to absorb (liquids, esp when spilt) in the manner of a sponge
(transitive) often foll by off. to get (something) from (someone) by presuming on his generosity: to sponge a meal off someone
(intransitive; often foll by off or on) to obtain one's subsistence, welfare, etc, unjustifiably (from): he sponges off his friends
(intransitive) to go collecting sponges
See also sponge down
Derived Forms
spongelike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English, from Latin spongia, from Greek
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sponging



Old English sponge, spunge, from Latin spongia "a sponge," also "sea animal from which a sponge comes," from Greek spongia, related to spongos "sponge," borrowed from an unknown source. The Latin word is the source of Old Saxon spunsia, Middle Dutch spongie, Old French esponge, Spanish esponja, Italian spugna. To throw in the sponge "quit, submit" (1860) is from prizefighting, in reference to the sponges used to cleanse the faces of combatants between rounds (cf. later throw in the towel). Sponge-cake is attested from 1808.


late 14c., "to soak up with a sponge," from sponge (n.). The slang sense of "to live in a parasitic manner" is attested from 1670s; sponger (n.) in this sense is from 1670s. Originally it was the victim who was known as the sponge (c.1600), because he or she was being "squeezed." Related: Sponged; sponging.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sponging in Medicine

sponge (spŭnj)

  1. Any of numerous aquatic invertebrate animals of the phylum Porifera.

  2. The light, fibrous, absorbent skeleton of certain of these organisms.

  3. A piece of absorbent porous material, such as cellulose, plastic, or rubber, used especially for washing and cleaning.

  4. A gauze pad used to absorb blood and other fluids, as in surgery or in dressing a wound.

  5. A contraceptive sponge.

v. sponged, spong·ing, spong·es
To wash, moisten, or absorb with a sponge.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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sponging in Science
  1. Any of numerous aquatic, chiefly marine invertebrate animals of the phylum Porifera. Sponges characteristically have a porous skeleton, usually containing an intricate system of canals, that is composed of fibrous material or siliceous or calcareous spicules. Water passing through the pores brings food to the organism. Sponges live in all depths of the sea, are sessile, and often form irregularly shaped colonies attached to an underwater surface. Sponges are considered the most primitive members of the animal kingdom, since they lack a nervous system and differentiated body tissues or organs. Adults do not have moving parts, but the larvae are free-swimming. Sponges have great regenerative capacities, with some species able to regenerate a complete adult organism from fragments as small as a single cell. Sponges first appear during the early Cambrian Period and may have evolved from protozoa. Also called poriferan. See Note at regeneration.

  2. The light, fibrous, flexible, absorbent skeleton of certain of these organisms, used for bathing, cleaning, and other purposes.

  3. A piece of porous plastic, rubber, cellulose, or other material, similar in absorbency to this skeleton and used for the same purposes.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for sponging



  1. (also sponger) A parasite; freeloader, moocher, schnorrer: You avoided college boys, sponges (1598+)
  2. A drunkard; soak (1900+)


: We were able to sponge lots of meals off his parents (1676+)

Related Terms

throw in the sponge

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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sponging in the Bible

occurs only in the narrative of the crucifixion (Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; John 19:29). It is ranked as a zoophyte. It is found attached to rocks at the bottom of the sea.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with sponging


In addition to the idiom beginning with sponge also see: throw in the sponge
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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