- 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
Contemporary Examples of 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
Historical Examples of swab
“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 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.