A client from Australia sent us some documents that pretty consistently use "alcohol swap" to describe disinfecting wipes.

So no, this is not a "what do I use if I don't have gin" type of situation; they're clearly writing what I would spell as "alcohol swab".

None of the dictionaries I checked has "swab" as an alternate definition of "swap", and I checked over a dozen. Is this nonetheless an accepted Australian variant, or is it a simple mistake?


It doesn't seem so. This is a malapropism by your client. See below:

From Macquarie’s dictionary of Australian English - paywall, so no link.


/swɒp/ (say swop) verb (swapped, swapping) –verb (t) 1. to exchange, barter, or trade, as one thing for another.

–verb (i) 2. to make an exchange.

–noun 3. an exchange: *If you're really worried, bring along someone else's in a thermos and do a swap in the cubicle. –JOHN A SCOTT, 1988.

–phrase Colloquial 4. swap spit, (humorous) to tongue-kiss.

  1. swap the witch for the bitch, to give up one addiction for another which is even worse.

Also, swop. [Middle English swappe strike, strike hands (in bargaining)] –swapper, noun


/swɒb/ (say swob) noun 1. a large mop used on shipboard for cleaning decks, etc.

  1. Medicine, Veterinary Science a piece of sponge, cloth, cottonwool, or the like, often mounted on a stick, for cleansing the mouth of a sick person, or for applying medicaments, taking specimens of discharges and secretions, etc.

  2. the material collected with a swab.

  3. a cleaner for the bore of a firearm.

  4. Colloquial a contemptible or useless person.

–verb (t) (swabbed, swabbing) 6. to clean with or as with a swab.

  1. to take up, or apply, as moisture, with or as with a swab.

  2. to pass (a swab, etc.) over a surface.

  3. to test (a racehorse) for possible drugging by taking a saliva sample with a swab.

Also, swob. [probably Middle Dutch swabbe mop]

| improve this answer | |
  • Only an Aussie dictionary would reference swap the witch for the bitch! Hahahahahaha – David M Oct 23 '19 at 16:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.