verb (used with object), sponged, spong·ing.

verb (used without object), sponged, spong·ing.


    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 formssponge·less, adjectivesponge·like, adjectivespong·ing·ly, adverbun·sponged, adjective

Synonyms for sponge

6. leech. 12. wash.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sponge

Contemporary Examples of sponge

Historical Examples of sponge

  • When and how is sponge cake taken from the pan in which it is baked?

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 4

    Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences

  • But that first case died because a sponge had been left in the operating field.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • I hated him for this, as though the sponge had been Rachel's heart.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • Take a basin of water and a sponge, Fred, and wash the dust off.

    Henry Dunbar

    M. E. Braddon

  • Add it gradually, stirring your flour into the sponge at the same time.

    Culture and Cooking

    Catherine Owen

British Dictionary definitions for sponge



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, etcSee also spongin
any of a number of light porous elastic materials resembling a sponge
another word for sponger (def. 1)
informal a person who indulges in heavy drinking
leavened dough, esp before kneading
Also called: sponge pudding British 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 gasplatinum sponge
a rub with a sponge
throw in the sponge See throw in (def. 4)


(tr; often foll by off or down) to clean (something) by wiping or rubbing with a damp or wet sponge
(tr; 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
(tr often foll by off) to get (something) from (someone) by presuming on his generosityto sponge a meal off someone
(intr; often foll by off or on) to obtain one's subsistence, welfare, etc, unjustifiably (from)he sponges off his friends
(intr) to go collecting sponges
See also sponge down
Derived Formsspongelike, adjective

Word Origin for sponge

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

Word Origin and History for sponge

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

Medicine definitions for sponge




Any of numerous aquatic invertebrate animals of the phylum Porifera.
The light, fibrous, absorbent skeleton of certain of these organisms.
A piece of absorbent porous material, such as cellulose, plastic, or rubber, used especially for washing and cleaning.
A gauze pad used to absorb blood and other fluids, as in surgery or in dressing a wound.
A contraceptive sponge.


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.

Science definitions for sponge



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.
The light, fibrous, flexible, absorbent skeleton of certain of these organisms, used for bathing, cleaning, and other purposes.
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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with sponge


In addition to the idiom beginning with sponge

  • sponge on

also see:

  • throw in the sponge
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.