from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of numerous aquatic, chiefly marine filter-feeding invertebrate animals of the phylum Porifera, characteristically having a porous skeleton composed of fibrous material or siliceous or calcareous spicules and often forming colonies attached to an underwater surface.
  • noun A piece of the absorbent skeleton of certain of these organisms, or a piece of plastic or another material that is similar in absorbency, used for cleaning, bathing, and other purposes.
  • noun Metal in a porous, brittle form, as after the removal of other metals in processing, used as a raw material in manufacturing.
  • noun A gauze pad used to absorb blood and other fluids, as in surgery or the dressing of a wound.
  • noun A small absorbent contraceptive pad that contains a spermicide and is placed against the cervix of the uterus before sexual intercourse.
  • noun Dough that has been or is being leavened.
  • noun A light cake, such as sponge cake.
  • noun Informal One who habitually depends on others for one's own maintenance.
  • noun Slang A person who drinks large amounts of alcohol.
  • intransitive verb To moisten, wipe, or clean with a sponge or cloth.
  • intransitive verb To remove or absorb with a sponge or cloth.
  • intransitive verb To apply or daub with a sponge.
  • intransitive verb Informal To obtain free, as by begging or freeloading.
  • intransitive verb To harvest sponges.
  • intransitive verb Informal To obtain something such as food or money by relying on the generosity of others.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A fixed aquatic organism of a low order, various in form and texture, composed of an aggregate of amœbiform bodies disposed about a common cavity provided with one or more inhalent and exhalent orifices (ostioles and oscules), through which water pours in and out.
  • noun The fibrous framework of a colony of sponge-animalcules, from which the animalcules themselves have been washed out, and from which the gritty or sandy parts of the colony, if there were any, have been taken away. See skeleton, 1 .
  • noun Any sponge-like substance.
  • noun A tool for cleaning a cannon after its discharge.
  • noun Figuratively, one who or that which absorbs without discrimination, and as readily gives up, when subjected to pressure, that which has been absorbed.
  • noun One who persistently lives upon others; a sycophantic or cringing dependent; a hanger-on for the sake of maintenance; a parasite.
  • noun In the manège, the extremity or point of a horseshoe answering to the heel.
  • noun The coral, or mass of eggs, under the abdomen of a crab.
  • noun Any absorbent material employed to take up the blood and other fluids in surgical operations.
  • To cleanse or wipe with a sponge: as, to sponge the body; to sponge a slate or a cannon.
  • To wipe out with a sponge, as letters or writing; efface; remove with a sponge; destroy all traces of: with out, off, etc.
  • Specifically To dampen, as in cloth-manufacturing.
  • To absorb; use a sponge, or act like a sponge, in absorbing: generally with up: as, to sponge up water that has been spilled.
  • To gain by sycophantic or mean arts.
  • To drain; harass by extortion; squeeze; plunder.
  • In baking, to set a sponge for: as, to sponge bread.
  • To gather sponges where they grow; dive or dredge for sponges.
  • To live meanly at the expense of others; obtain money or other aid in a mean way: with on.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) Any one of numerous species of Spongiæ, or Porifera. See Illust. and Note under spongiæ.
  • noun The elastic fibrous skeleton of many species of horny Spongiæ (Keratosa), used for many purposes, especially the varieties of the genus Spongia. The most valuable sponges are found in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and on the coasts of Florida and the West Indies.
  • noun One who lives upon others; a pertinacious and indolent dependent; a parasite; a sponger.
  • noun Any spongelike substance.
  • noun Dough before it is kneaded and formed into loaves, and after it is converted into a light, spongy mass by the agency of the yeast or leaven.
  • noun Iron from the puddling furnace, in a pasty condition.
  • noun Iron ore, in masses, reduced but not melted or worked.
  • noun (Gun.) A mop for cleaning the bore of a cannon after a discharge. It consists of a cylinder of wood, covered with sheepskin with the wool on, or cloth with a heavy looped nap, and having a handle, or staff.
  • noun (Far.) The extremity, or point, of a horseshoe, answering to the heel.
  • noun any one of several varieties of coarse commercial sponges, especially Spongia equina.
  • noun a toilet sponge growing in a cup-shaped form.
  • noun See Glass-sponge, in the Vocabulary.
  • noun a variety of commercial sponge (Spongia officinalis, variety tubulifera), having very fine fibers, native of Florida, and the West Indies.
  • noun any one of several varieties of coarse commercial sponges having the surface irregularly tufted, as Spongia graminea, and S. equina, variety cerebriformis, of Florida and the West Indies.
  • noun a coarse commercial sponge, especially Spongia equina.
  • noun (Chem.) See under Platinum.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English, from Latin spongia, from Greek spongiā, from spongos.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English spunge, from Latin spongia, from Ancient Greek σπογγιά (spongia), related to σπόγγος (spongos).


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  • 1: A sponge is a porous animal found in the bottom of the ocean.

    2: A small porous tool used to wash various thigs such as dishes or cars. Can be synthetic or made by the actual animal.

    December 7, 2006

  • Also a bread mix, particularly one that is left to ferment before being worked to a dough.

    November 27, 2007

  • And of course WeirdNet thinks the most common usage is as a verb...

    November 27, 2007

  • "... he had infiltrated the barn area with plans to break into Seabiscuit's stall and shove a sponge up his nostril, impeding his breathing....

    "A ripple of horror spread across the backstretch. 'Sponging,' an old race-fixing technique from racing's corrupt days, threatened horses' lives. The ensuing partial strangulation frequently triggered systemic, stress-related diseases that were often fatal. And unless a horseman was actively looking for the sponge, it could go undetected for weeks."

    —Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend (New York: Ballentine Books, 2001), 194–195

    "'A brigade of Chicago gorillas armed with Tommy guns might be able to get to Seabiscuit—after shooting down everybody on the lot,' said Howard. 'But one man trying to sponge Seabiscuit would have about as much chance as a kindergarten kid trying to jimmy his way into the United States mint with a fountain pen.'"

    (p. 208)

    October 21, 2008

  • Check out Cent. Dict.'s "inhalent and exhalent orifices."

    April 26, 2011

  • Those are ostioles and oscules, you know.

    April 26, 2011

  • They should be called incurrent and excurrent, since sponges don't breathe air.

    April 26, 2011