Definition of cesspool in US English:



  • 1An underground container for the temporary storage of liquid waste and sewage.

    • ‘As municipal water and sewer systems replaced backyard wells, cesspools, and privies, outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, malaria, and typhus diminished.’
    • ‘This refuse percolated down into the aquifers, which were also threatened by the increasing number of cesspools in the city.’
    • ‘For example, this could be where the judgement was based on replacing septic tanks with cesspools, or with private sewage treatment plants at the expense of the applicant.’
    • ‘The house was also in need of an efficient hot-water and heating system, new external drains and cesspools, improved internal sanitation and complete re-wiring for bells to link all the floors.’
    • ‘Place tight covers over cisterns, cesspools, septic tanks, fire barrels, rain barrels and tubs where water is stored.’
    • ‘The report compared the environmental effects of the cesspool option and the public sewerage option both during construction and afterwards, including the effects of emptying the cesspools once a month.’
    • ‘The accident also contaminated the water cistern of the cesspool's owner, who had to purchase water from the Aqueduct Company thereafter.’
    • ‘Out back, however, out of sight except from a plane, are the pits, lagoons, and cesspools of millions of gallons of untreated animal waste.’
    • ‘Physicians attributed the primary cause of disease to miasmas emanating from sewage, cesspools, or rotting vegetable matter.’
    • ‘Its waste, up to ten pounds per day, drops through the slats where it collects before being periodically pumped into open-air cesspools.’
    • ‘According to Mississippi law, these facilities have to set the cesspools and barns back at least 300 feet from the property line.’
    • ‘As the town had no wells it would not be necessary to enforce the construction of watertight cesspools.’
    • ‘The Appellant owns and uses two tractors for the purpose of his business of emptying cesspools and discharging the waste on agricultural land.’
    • ‘Breeding occurs in rain barrels, tin cans, tires, stormsewer catch basins, street gutters, polluted ground pools, cesspools, open septic tanks, etc.’
    1. 1.1 A disgusting or corrupt place.
      ‘they should clean out their own political cesspool’
      • ‘Allow such a mix to dominate a society, and a vast, corrupt cesspool in Washington and on Wall Street is guaranteed.’
      • ‘The regimes of Eastern Europe were cesspools of political reaction.’
      • ‘But whether the Cabinet falls or not, Czechs know that very little will change, for the cesspool that is Czech political culture runs very deep indeed.’
      • ‘Our whole system is nothing but a corrupt cesspool of legalized bribery!’
      • ‘Once dreaded as cesspools of infection, hospitals began to be seen as temples of healing and citadels of science, affording them a new moral identity.’
      • ‘At home, it's a cesspool of corruption, where charges of theft or employee harassment are hardly unheard of.’
      • ‘I knew that such a place would have been a cesspool of violence, corruption and racism, and I wanted to write a Mississippi prison book that sort of reversed the polarities.’
      • ‘Sheridan depicts drug-filled cesspools not to criticize or protest, but to claim that they form merely the bottom rung of an ever-ascending ladder of success.’
      • ‘Once personal and environmental filth came to indicate an absence of morality, Boston's tenement districts seemed like cesspools of sin.’
      • ‘I don't know exactly why, but I suppose it's mainly because Sacramento politics is such a cesspool that it makes Congress look like a bunch of do-gooding Model UN participants.’
      • ‘He's logged 2 1/2 years at Enron, mopping up one of the biggest financial cesspools in U.S. history.’
      • ‘Hersh's work won him a Pulitzer, and he's continued digging into military and political cesspools, including the CIA's bombing of Cambodia and its actions against Chile's Salvador Allende.’
      • ‘Reserves are cesspools of corruption and all band councils are poorly managed and unaccountable.’
      • ‘Many of our organizations are cesspools of addictive and abusive behavior even as executives espouse otherwise. People harm the spirits of others daily and humanity is lost.’
      • ‘When we permit someone to abuse his power to take advantage of us, we demean ourselves and we contribute to the cesspool of corruption that is holding Indonesia back from her rightful place among the evolved nations of the world.’
      • ‘The journalistic wing of the American intelligentsia in particular is largely a cesspool of venality and corruption.’
      • ‘Unsparing in his criticism, he held politicians squarely responsible for converting research institutions into a cesspool of dirty politics and trade unionism.’
      • ‘It was dictatorships that plunged the Philippines and Indonesia into the cesspool of corruption.’
      • ‘The entire kitchen sink has been thrown in, and for this and other reasons departments of English have generally become cesspools of diffusion, disaffection, and resentment.’


Late 17th century (denoting a trap under a drain to catch solids): probably an alteration, influenced by pool, of archaic suspiral ‘vent, water pipe, settling tank’, from Old French souspirail ‘air hole’, based on Latin sub- ‘from below’ + spirare ‘breathe’.