Etymology
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sponge (v.)

late 14c., "to soak up with a sponge," also (transitive) "to cleanse or wipe with a sponge," from sponge (n.). The slang sense of "to live in a parasitic manner, live at the expense of others" is attested from 1670s; sponger (n.) in this sense is from 1670s. Originally it was the victim who was the sponge (c. 1600), because he or she was being "squeezed." Intransitive sense "dive for sponges" is from 1881. Related: Sponged; sponging.

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sponge (n.)

Old English sponge, spunge, from Latin spongia "a sponge," also "sea animal from which a sponge comes," from Greek spongia, related to spongos "sponge," of unknown origin. "Probably a loanword from a non-IE language, borrowed independently into Greek, Latin and Armenian in a form *sphong-" [de Vaan]. The Latin word is the source of Old Saxon spunsia, Middle Dutch spongie, Old French esponge, Spanish esponja, Italian spugna.

In English in reference to the marine animal from 1530s. To throw in the sponge "quit, submit" (1860) is from prizefighting, in reference to the sponges used to cleanse the faces of combatants between rounds (compare later throw in the towel). Sponge-cake is attested from 1808.

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cloth (n.)

"woven fabric, pliable stuff made of intertexture of threads or fibers," Old English claþ "a cloth, sail, cloth covering, woven or felted material to wrap around one," hence, also, "garment," from Proto-Germanic *kalithaz (source also of Old Frisian klath "cloth," Middle Dutch cleet, Dutch kleed "garment, dress," Middle High German kleit, German Kleid "garment"), which is of obscure origin, perhaps a substratum word.

As an adjective, "made or consisting of cloth," from 1590s. Meaning "distinctive clothing worn by some group" (servants of one house, men of some profession or trade) is from 1590s, hence The cloth "the clerical profession" (1701).

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cheese-cloth (n.)

"coarse cotton fabric of open texture," 1650s, originally cloth in which curds were pressed, from cheese (n.1) + cloth.

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oil-cloth (n.)

also oilcloth, 1690s, "cotton or a similar fabric waterproofed with oil," from oil (n.) + cloth. In reference to an oil-treated canvas used as a cheap floor covering, 1796.

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hand-cloth (n.)

Old English hand-claþe; see hand (n.) + cloth (n.).

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whole cloth (n.)

early 15c., "piece of cloth of full size," as opposed to a piece cut out for a garment; figurative sense first attested 1570s.

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sail-cloth (n.)

"hemp or cotton canvas used in making ships' sails," c. 1200, from sail (n.) + cloth (n.).

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loin-cloth (n.)

also loincloth, "cloth worn about the loins" (properly the hips), 1851, from loin (n.) + cloth (n.).

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dish-cloth (n.)

also dishcloth, "cloth for washing dishes," 1828, from dish (n.) + cloth. It relegated earlier dish-clout (1520s) to dialect. Dish-rag is by 1839. All have been taken as types of limpness or weakness. Dish-mop, "bundle of threads or cloth scraps fixed securely on a stick," used when the dish-waster is hotter than the hands can bear, is by 1856.

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