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.
verb (used with object), swabbed, swabbing.
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.
Also, swob.

1645–55; back formation from swabber

unswabbed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
swab (swɒb)
1.  med
 a.  a small piece of cotton, gauze, etc, for use in applying medication, cleansing a wound, or obtaining a specimen of a secretion, etc
 b.  the specimen so obtained
2.  a mop for cleaning floors, decks, etc
3.  a brush used to clean a firearm's bore
4.  slang an uncouth or worthless fellow
vb (foll by up) , swabs, swabbing, swabbed
5.  (tr) to clean or medicate with or as if with a swab
6.  to take up with a swab
[C16: probably from Middle Dutch swabbe mop; related to Norwegian svabba to splash, Dutch zwabberen to mop, German schwappen to slop over]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1659, "mop made of rope or yarn," from swabber (1607) "mop for cleaning a ship's deck," from Du. zwabber, akin to W.Fris. swabber "mop," from P.Gmc. *swab-, perhaps of imitative origin. Non-nautical meaning "anything used for mopping up" is from 1787. The verb is first recorded 1719, possibly from the
noun. Slang meaning "a sailor" first attested 1798, from swabber "member of a ship's crew assigned to swab decks" (1591), which by 1609 was being used in a broader sense of "one who behaves like a low-ranking sailor."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

swab (swŏb)

  1. A small piece of absorbent material attached to the end of a stick or wire and used for cleansing or applying medicine.

  2. A specimen of mucus or other material removed with a swab.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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