Definition of swab in English:



  • 1An absorbent pad or piece of material used in surgery and medicine for cleaning wounds, applying medication, or taking specimens.

    • ‘Hundreds of inmates will be handed clean syringes and swabs on a ‘no questions asked’ basis as a result of the scheme, which was condemned last night as the ultimate surrender in the war on drugs.’
    • ‘Unlike Little et al, we are not worried that the artificial use of throat swabs and medication tray biased the recording of symptoms in the diary.’
    • ‘An alcohol swab cleans the valve connection before each procedure.’
    • ‘Take cap off of heparin vial and clean with alcohol swab.’
    • ‘Candidiasis is usually diagnosed by examination or growing a culture from a sample on a swab.’
    • ‘The nurse used sterile cotton wool swabs to obtain swab specimens of the wound.’
    • ‘But it's still comes down to insuring doctors against the situation that happens if they leave a swab inside a wound.’
    • ‘A newspaper article printed in our local paper included a diagram that showed using nasal swabs for isolation.’
    • ‘They came to that conclusion by actually weighing the fouling removed after cleaning with a dry swab.’
    • ‘My doctor friends came with the First-Aid Team, and forewarned that it's going to hurt when they wipe the wound with the wet swab.’
    • ‘During the exam, your doctor may apply a cotton-tipped swab to the area to see if it is painful.’
    • ‘It is common to moisten swabs and other potentially flammable materials in the surgical site when using lasers.’
    • ‘When collecting aspirated material or material with a needle and syringe, the specimen should not be placed on a swab.’
    • ‘Specimens for bacterial cultures can be obtained with swabs or aspiration.’
    • ‘The INO industrial officer said the situation at CUH, where medical swabs were running low, was deplorable.’
    • ‘Spread of the infection is often halted when health-care workers wash their hands and those of their patients with alcohol swabs, actively monitor those with wounds to the extremities and promptly identify the infected.’
    • ‘The test has been cleared for use with endocervical swabs, male urethral swabs, and with female and male urine.’
    • ‘Use swabs and solvent to clean the guts of the gun, oil to protect them through extended idle.’
    • ‘Additional airway bacterial cultures were obtained in all subjects at test 1, either by expectorated sputum samples or by oropharyngeal swabs.’
    • ‘Separate sterile Dacron-tipped swabs were used to sample the vagina and rectum.’
    1. 1.1 A specimen of a secretion taken with a swab for examination.
      ‘he had taken throat swabs’
      • ‘Wound swabs and blood cultures showed no growth, and the ulcer extended despite high dose intravenous antibiotics.’
      • ‘A piece of hair, a nail clipping, or a swab from a glass of beer could all be used to provide information without the person concerned ever knowing.’
      • ‘For the trial, women provide two vaginal swabs which they take themselves and one urine sample.’
      • ‘Preexisting wound and nasal swabs were sent for culture.’
      • ‘Deoxyribonucleic acid samples were obtained from buccal swabs; a cytology brush was used.’
      • ‘In addition stool samples or rectal swabs in transport media were also collected and transported to the microbiology laboratory for further processing.’
      • ‘At enrolment we tested blood sample and swabs from probable entry sites for aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.’
      • ‘Two days ago a urethral swab was sent from the genitourinary medicine department taken from my patient.’
      • ‘Both cervical and urethral swabs were combined and run together as one sample.’
      • ‘Processing and identification of samples: The soft tissue samples included samples from infected tissues and wounds (pus samples, wound swabs, tissues and drain fluids).’
      • ‘For microbiologie cultures, fresh stool is preferred to rectal swabs in which the pathogens are less in number.’
      • ‘The burn wounds swabs and urine samples were inoculated within one hour of collection on to blood agar and MacConkey agar plates.’
      • ‘Researchers analyzed swabs taken from 42 neckties worn by physicians and medical staff as well as 10 neckties from security staff at the medical center.’
      • ‘Conjunctival swabs - Conjunctival swabs were obtained from the 50 control subjects.’
      • ‘He noted also that Carter had had swabs taken from the sarcophagus and sampled ‘specimens of air’ because of fear of contagion but these had been ‘absolutely sterile.’’
      • ‘The doctor or nurse that you see will probably take a swab (sample of cells) from the area to check for the infection that's causing the warts.’
      • ‘This new chemistry also purifies DNA from a variety of other sample types, including buffy-coat, leukocyte fractions, buccal swabs, and tissue-cultured cells.’
      • ‘All the three throat swabs were from patients with upper respiratory tract infections while the eye specimen was from a patient with conjunctivitis.’
      • ‘The FDA also has approved use of a new rapid oral HIV test kit, which provides results within 20 minutes using material collected from an oral swab.’
      • ‘Police officers can collect urine samples and mouth swabs, thereby minimising the client's discomfort while waiting as well as increasing the chance of detecting drugs excreted in the urine.’
  • 2A mop or other absorbent device for cleaning or mopping up a floor or other surface.

    sponge, swab, squeegee
    View synonyms
  • 3archaic A contemptible person.

    ‘‘Avast, ye swabs,’ she shouted’
    1. 3.1US
      another term for swabbie
      • ‘Punishment is meted out in full view of others as the offending navy swabs are beaten with a rod on their buttocks.’


[with object]
  • 1Clean (a wound or surface) with a swab.

    ‘the crew were swabbing down the decks’
    ‘swab a patch of skin with alcohol’
    • ‘She poured more antiseptic onto the wound, swabbing it away with a sterile cloth.’
    • ‘This includes brushing the dirt from the injection site and swabbing the area with alcohol or disinfectant.’
    • ‘In order to catheterize the Sailor the corpsman swabbed the urethral opening of his penis with a non-irritating antiseptic.’
    • ‘Stems were cut 10 mm above the soil level and the wound area was immediately swabbed to remove contaminants from cut cells.’
    • ‘The largest five lesions were swabbed with one swab by gently rubbing the wound surface.’
    • ‘At 1: 50 p.m. on January 9, 2003, one of them swabbed the outside of a passenger's laptop bag to check for explosives.’
    • ‘And surfaces dry much quicker than when they are swabbed down with wet mops, reducing the risk of slips and falls.’
    • ‘Finally, clean and swab the rest of your gat - cylinder, slide, trigger, receiver, what have you - and you're good to go.’
    • ‘After she had been told that this could be due to cold sore virus infection, the lesions were swabbed and sent for culture in viral transport medium.’
    • ‘After swabbing and assessing the lesions and collecting data, the nurse randomly assigned each patient to treatment with 2 percent fusidic acid cream or identical placebo three times daily.’
    • ‘The surface of the agar was swabbed with the suspension.’
    • ‘Orthopaedic liaison nurses swabbed all patients (nose, perineum, and any skin lesions) in the community for MRSA and methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus.’
    • ‘The base of the lesion should be swabbed vigorously because the virus is cell-associated.’
    • ‘Slasher finishes swabbing down his work surface, and has another swig of beer.’
    • ‘To obtain each sample, 4 sterile cotton-tipped applicators were slightly moistened in sterile saline and swabbed along the length of the penile shaft and around’
    • ‘The wall of the womb is swabbed and closed with stitches that will later safely dissolve.’
    • ‘Pull firmly and steadily on the tick until it lets go, then swab the bite site with alcohol.’
    • ‘She swabbed the inside of Sean's elbow, and stuck the needle in.’
    • ‘In trials, ambulances that had just come off duty were swabbed and results showed every vehicle was contaminated with a variety of pathogens, including bacteria and fungi.’
    • ‘In the Clark case, technicians swabbed every surface, knowing the smallest trace amount could nab a killer.’
    wash, cleanse, wipe, sponge, scrub, mop, rinse, scour, hose down, sluice, sluice down, flush, polish, disinfect
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with adverbial Absorb or clear (moisture) with a swab.
      ‘the blood was swabbed away’
      • ‘The weapon of torture was the chemical Oleoresin Capsicum, known as pepper spray, swabbed into their eyes with a Q-tip.’
      • ‘At least it's right manly of you to help try to swab up the vomit all these watery sea-sickening miles later.’
      • ‘He was lifted to his feet by the caller, who was also the referee, walked to the fresh air at the back of the tent, and given some water, and had his blood swabbed away.’
      • ‘In the Internet café, the manager sat with a giant tub of antiseptic wipes at her elbow, ready to swab down mouse and keyboard after each use.’
      • ‘Grabbing a tissue from the desk she held Matt's head steady under the light, swabbing away at the crusted blood around his head. ‘What else did he take?’’
      pat, press, touch, blot, mop, smudge
      View synonyms


Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘mop for cleaning the decks’): back-formation from swabber ‘sailor detailed to swab decks’, from early modern Dutch zwabber, from a Germanic base meaning ‘splash’ or ‘sway’.