- a large mop used on shipboard for cleaning decks, living quarters, etc.
- a bit of sponge, cloth, cotton, or the like, sometimes fixed to a stick, for cleansing the mouth of a sick person or for applying medicaments, drying areas, etc.
- the material collected with a swab as a specimen for microscopic study.
- a brush or wad of absorbent material for cleaning the bore of a firearm.
- Slang. a sailor; swabby.
- Slang. a clumsy fellow.
- to clean with or as if with a swab: to swab the decks.
- to take up or apply, as moisture, with or as if with a swab: to swab soapy water from the decks.
- to pass over a surface: to swab a mop over the decks.
Origin of swab
Examples from the Web for swab
She submitted to a DNA swab after some discussions between the authorities and her lawyer.Katherine Russell Under Scrutiny After Female DNA Found on Boston Bomb
April 30, 2013
“Here, you, get a swab and mop that up,” I commanded in my harshest manner.The Mutiny of the Elsinore
Then clear out on deck and swab the curry off your face, you beast!The Ebbing Of The Tide
How could I permit that swab to mock me and abuse my father as a thief?Foma Gordyeff
Ill teach you how to sail a schooner and how to go about barefoot and swab decks.The Rough Road
William John Locke
A line bent to the eye of a swab for dipping it overboard in washing it.The Sailor's Word-Book
William Henry Smyth
- a small piece of cotton, gauze, etc, for use in applying medication, cleansing a wound, or obtaining a specimen of a secretion, etc
- the specimen so obtained
- a mop for cleaning floors, decks, etc
- a brush used to clean a firearm's bore
- slang an uncouth or worthless fellow
- (tr) to clean or medicate with or as if with a swab
- (tr foll by up) to take up with a swab
Word Origin and History for swab
1650s, "mop made of rope or yarn," from swabber (c.1600) "mop for cleaning a ship's deck," from Dutch zwabber, akin to West Frisian swabber "mop," from Proto-Germanic *swab-, perhaps of imitative origin. Non-nautical meaning "anything used for mopping up" is from 1787. Slang meaning "a sailor" first attested 1798, from swabber "member of a ship's crew assigned to swab decks" (1590s), which by 1609 was being used in a broader sense of "one who behaves like a low-ranking sailor."
1719, possibly from swab (n.). Related: Swabbed; swabbing.
- A small piece of absorbent material attached to the end of a stick or wire and used for cleansing or applying medicine.
- A specimen of mucus or other material removed with a swab.