Definition of sponge in English:



  • 1A primitive sedentary aquatic invertebrate with a soft porous body that is typically supported by a framework of fibres or calcareous or glassy spicules. Sponges draw in a current of water to extract nutrients and oxygen.

    Phylum Porifera: several classes

    • ‘Chinese scholar's rocks, coral and sponges come to mind.’
    • ‘Other images are just as mystifying the spine of a sea urchin, sharks' teeth, sponges and ascidians, to name a few.’
  • 2A piece of a soft, light, porous absorbent substance originally consisting of the fibrous skeleton of an aquatic invertebrate but now usually made of synthetic material, used for washing and cleaning.

    • ‘Physical debris was removed from needles as necessary using sponges soaked with disinfectant.’
    • ‘Then we would mist the back with water and rub it down with a sponge so when it dried it would shrink tightly.’
    • ‘We were like sponges; we absorbed knowledge eagerly after the ten-year void.’
    • ‘When it is done as well as this, it leaves one feeling like a well wrung sponge.’
    • ‘The energy was incredible; the dancers were like sponges, soaking everything up.’
    • ‘Be a sponge - absorb as much inspiration as you can from watching other artists perform.’
    • ‘Worryingly, more than one in ten only rinse the cloth or sponge, which doesn't kill any harboured bacteria and could in fact spread the invisible germs around kitchen surfaces.’
    • ‘I was busting out a super funky tear, and Daron wiped it off of my chin with one of those really absorbent Easter sponges shaped like a pink little chicken baby.’
    • ‘Once worms are added to the bedding, the moisture level should remain approximately that of a wrung-out sponge.’
    • ‘Of those that use a dishcloth or sponge, a third disinfect, boil or bleach it to keep it clean - the most effective methods.’
    • ‘They fetch a sponge and smelling salts, and go upstairs to the room where Grace Poole usually stays.’
    • ‘Put newspaper on the floor, find a big bib, and stand by with sponges.’
    • ‘This increases insulation and avoids the need for surface treatment, while the vegetation absorbs rain like a sponge, reducing or at least delaying run-off.’
    • ‘These people just don't sip, they imbibe, they absorb liquor like dehydrated sponges, letting the story-soothing booze flow through their veins until it seeps from their pores in the squalid stench of defeat.’
    • ‘However, passive organic matter acts much like a sponge, holding a lot of water.’
    1. 2.1in singular An act of wiping or cleaning with a sponge.
      ‘they gave him a quick sponge down’
      clean, wipe, sponge, mop, swab, flush, scrub, hose-down, swill, lather, soap
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    2. 2.2mass noun A soft, light, porous substance used as padding or insulating material.
      ‘the headguard is padded with sponge’
      • ‘In the most recent sculptures, Starr has worked with thinner slices of sponge, laid on the floor like mats or stacked like towels, all oozing floods of paint.’
      • ‘However, Dubuffet soon extended the meaning of the word ‘assemblage’ to cover small sculptures he made from such materials as sponge and scraps of wood.’
    3. 2.3 A barrier contraceptive in the form of a piece of soft, light, porous material impregnated with spermicide and inserted into a woman's vagina.
    4. 2.4mass noun, with modifier Metal in a porous form, typically prepared by reduction without fusion or by electrolysis.
      ‘platinum sponge’
  • 3British A light cake made by beating eggs with sugar, flour, and usually butter or other fat.

    ‘a chocolate sponge’
    mass noun ‘the gateau is made with moist sponge’
    • ‘It's a weekday morning and the elderly patrons are hard at work on dim sum and sponge cake.’
    • ‘Baking is a passion of mine so I bake all sorts of sponge cakes and Christmas cakes for my friends.’
    • ‘It's like baking a sponge cake at too high a heat, and it gets soggy and deflates, and the only person who's willing to eat it is your dog.’
    • ‘Victoria sponge cakes and female submission do not a happy home make.’
    • ‘Christenings increasingly call for finger food, light bright sponge cakes and pavlovas, rather than a sit-down feast.’
    • ‘The problem is that when I first put the sponge cakes together to look like a train, it worked really well.’
    • ‘Eat hot with warm sponge cake or madeleines or eat thoroughly chilled aside a little mound of equal quantities of thick yoghurt and whipped cream.’
    • ‘Then, she put in two puddings, and two spoons along with two pieces of chocolate sponge cake and called it good.’
    • ‘Sometimes a different fruit is used and some cooks may substitute sponge cake for shortcake; but no alternative version can match the excellence of the original.’
    • ‘For breakfast prisoners are offered coffee or hot chocolate, along with bread and butter, biscuits and small sponge cakes.’
    • ‘Arrowroot, a major cash crop, is used in desserts, including arrowroot sponge cake and arrowroot custard.’
    • ‘She made tea and offered him home-made sponge cake that was so light it was in danger of drifting off the plate in the cool breeze from the open window.’
    • ‘Sitting on the grass, sipping tea and eating lovely ham sandwiches, followed by fresh cream homemade sponge cakes, we thought that life couldn't get much better than this!’
    • ‘Most major food shops sell really buttery plain sponge cakes.’
    • ‘‘How long does it take to go to Boston from Philadelphia,’ I asked, starting to stir some of the sponge cake for Christmas dinner.’
    • ‘If one more person tells us we did a beautiful job of the eulogy, I will explode with pride and there will be little fluttery bits of pride all over sponge cakes and tomato sandwiches.’
    • ‘We learn of the medicinal importance of poultry and of the ritual significance of sponge cake and sweetmeats.’
    • ‘I sit on my grandmother's knee eating sponge cake warm from the oven.’
    • ‘I hid sharp unease behind the cream sponge and sugar tongs.’
    • ‘With the exception of plain, wholesome sponge cakes, instead of comforting, the scent of some cakes can be quite maddening.’
    1. 3.1
      short for sponge pudding
      • ‘Mrs Warburton was suddenly coming towards her, holding a large slice of cream sponge on a plate.’
  • 4informal A person who lives at someone else's expense.

    parasite, hanger-on, leech, scrounger, passenger, drone, beggar
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  • 5informal A heavy drinker.

    drinker, serious drinker, hard drinker, problem drinker, alcoholic
    View synonyms


  • 1with object Wipe or clean with a wet sponge or cloth.

    ‘she sponged him down in an attempt to cool his fever’
    • ‘Then she pulled the soiled blankets from beneath him, before sponging him down as she had the previous evening and wrapping him in a fresh set of sheets.’
    • ‘They brought the incubator in and as soon as Ty cut her umbilical cord, and they sponged her off a bit, then took her away.’
    • ‘I was standing in the school bathrooms, sponging my eye.’
    • ‘She sponged at my forehead with the corner of her apron.’
    • ‘Her other hand sponged his face with a cool, wet cloth.’
    • ‘They undressed her and sponged her with warm water; the baths were out of order.’
    • ‘Once he had been sponged and dressed by silent attendants, Hakida had lead him to a carriage and ushered him inside, then on the bumpy ride to the Vistula Temple beneath black clouds informed him of what he was to do.’
    • ‘I wet the cloth and sponged his forehead with it, and his moaning ceased.’
    • ‘She gently sponged Priss’ back, watching the muscles flex against her movement.’
    • ‘Joe wiggled and cooed happily as his mother dipped a cloth in water and sponged him off, dried and powdered him, and showed Hoss how to fold and apply a fresh diaper.’
    • ‘She sponged herself with the rag that accompanied her water-jug.’
    • ‘She looked down and reluctantly sponged off her hands.’
    wash, clean, wipe, swab
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    1. 1.1 Remove or wipe away (liquid or a mark) with a sponge or cloth.
      ‘I'll go and sponge this orange juice off my dress’
      • ‘And then she came out, sponged it up as best she could, sighed, looked at the clock, and then back at the remaining stain.’
      • ‘They spent all day sponging blood and ink from the floor, sorting letters into their boxes, sweeping.’
      • ‘She bent over Milo, sponging some of the warm painkiller from a bucket next to the bed.’
      • ‘They walked back down stairs and Nicole sponged up the water that had spilt everywhere.’
      • ‘Gently she sponged the sweat from his brow, half hoping the coolness might revive him.’
      • ‘It was like I squeezed out all the water I had sponged up.’
      • ‘She dressed the lesser injuries, sponging the blood away and applying salve.’
      • ‘After fighting a losing battle with a yawn, I got up and began sponging coffee from the carpet, wondering how I would talk to Jill again after the last moment we'd spent together.’
      • ‘The paint came off quite easily to her relief, but it stained her hands as she carefully sponged it off.’
      remove by washing, sponge off, scrub off, wipe off, rinse off, remove, flush away, flush out, expunge, eradicate
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    2. 1.2 Give a decorative effect to (a painted surface) by applying a different shade of paint with a sponge.
      ‘she repainted the walls white, then sponged them in turquoise, green, and lilac’
    3. 1.3 Decorate (pottery) using a sponge.
  • 2informal no object Obtain or accept money or food from other people without doing or intending to do anything in return.

    ‘they found they could earn a perfectly good living by sponging off others’
    • ‘It comes from taxes paid by plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plasterers and everyone else who goes out into the world and creates wealth, earns an honest living instead of spongeing off the state.’
    • ‘I'm at a point now where I think I can afford an apartment, and I figure I should stop sponging off my parents and get out into a new place.’
    • ‘It was designed to prevent people sponging on the system (becoming ‘pauperised’) but it also stigmatised and humiliated those who applied for relief.’
    • ‘Maggie is quite horrifyingly selfish and happy to sponge off Ella while she susses out the situation.’
    • ‘He lives with and sponges off his brother and sister-in-law, surviving on free samples at the supermarket, and gambling away what little money he has.’
    • ‘It was then that he realized she was sponging off his meager salary.’
    • ‘Two are notable-a witty fop, who lives nearby, and a down-at-the-heels aristocrat, who has been sponging off the family for decades.’
    • ‘I know you've spent the last few weeks sponging off Ellie.’
    • ‘Although, I did not feel comfortable sponging off of their generosity, so I did not get much.’
    • ‘The older women are in essence sponging off the daughter, a secretary, who is marrying mainly to escape their clutches.’
    • ‘There Jackson became a cowardly deserter sponging off the martial generosity of Uncle Sam, a man who betrayed his comrades and never paid his gambling debts.’
    scrounge from, scrounge off, live off, be a parasite on, impose on, beg from, borrow from, be dependent on
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    1. 2.1with object Obtain (money or food) from someone without doing anything in return.
      ‘he edged closer, clearly intending to sponge money from her’


Old English (in sponge (sense 2 of the noun)), via Latin from Greek spongia, later form of spongos, reinforced in Middle English by Old French esponge.