[ swob ]
See synonyms for swab on Thesaurus.com
  1. a large mop used on shipboard for cleaning decks, living quarters, etc.

  2. 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.

  1. the material collected with a swab as a specimen for microscopic study.

  2. a brush or wad of absorbent material for cleaning the bore of a firearm.

  3. Slang. a sailor; swabby.

  4. Slang. a clumsy fellow.

verb (used with object),swabbed, swab·bing.
  1. to clean with or as if with a swab: to swab the decks.

  2. to take up or apply, as moisture, with or as if with a swab: to swab soapy water from the decks.

  1. to pass over a surface: to swab a mop over the decks.

Origin of swab

First recorded in 1645–55; back formation from swabber

Other words from swab

  • un·swabbed, adjective

Words Nearby swab

Other definitions for Swab. (2 of 2)


  1. Swabia.

  2. Swabian.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use swab in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for swab


/ (swɒb) /

  1. med

    • 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

  2. a mop for cleaning floors, decks, etc

  1. a brush used to clean a firearm's bore

  2. slang an uncouth or worthless fellow

verbswabs, swabbing or swabbed
  1. (tr) to clean or medicate with or as if with a swab

  2. (tr foll by up) to take up with a swab

Origin of swab

C16: probably from Middle Dutch swabbe mop; related to Norwegian svabba to splash, Dutch zwabberen to mop, German schwappen to slop over

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