A sump is a low space that collects any often-undesirable liquids such as water or chemicals. A sump can also be an infiltration basin used to manage surface runoff water and recharge underground aquifers.[1]. Sump can also refer to an area in a cave where a underground flow of water exits the cave into the earth.

One common example of a sump is the lowest point in a basement, into which flows water that seeps in from outside. If this is a regular problem, a sump pump that moves the water outside of the house may be used.


Another example is the oil pan of an engine. The oil is used to lubricate the engine's moving parts and it pools in a reservoir, known as a sump, at the bottom of the engine. Use of a sump requires the engine to be mounted slightly higher to make space for it. Often though, oil in the sump can surge during hard cornering starving the oil pump. For these reasons racing and piston aircraft engines are "dry sumped" using scavenge pumps and a swirl tank to separate oil from air which is also sucked up by the pumps.[2]

A sump can also be found in an aquarium, mainly a reef system. The sump sits below the main tank and is used as a filter, as well as a holding place of unsightly equipment such as heaters and protein skimmers. The main advantage of having a sump plumbed into an aquarium is the increase of water in the system, making it more stable and less prone to fluctuations of pH and salinity.

A diving snorkel can have a sump section located below the mouthpiece. This allows excess moisture from the breath and liquid from the ocean to settle and remain in the sump, so that it does not impair the snorkeler's breathing.

In a nuclear power plant's reactor housing, the role of the sump will be to collect any overflow of primary loop coolant; in this case, monitoring and pumping of the sump is an important part of the reactor's safety system.

The equivalent of a sump on a boat is the bilge.

In the human eye, the vitreous humour has a minor role as a metabolic sump[3].

Other uses

In a foxhole, a grenade sump is a deeper hole dug inside the foxhole into which live grenades can be kicked to minimize damage from the explosion.

In medieval cosmology, the sump was the center of the cosmos, where the dregs and filth descended, with the celestial sphere far exalted above the world of fallen man.


  1. ^ Fagin, Dan. "Ancient, Clean, Controversial". Newsday.,0,5257146.story [dead link]
  2. ^ Jeff Huneycutt. "Oil Pans For Power". Circle Track magazine. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  3. ^ An Illustrated Colour Text to Ophthalmology, 3rd edition. Batterbury, Bowling, Murphy. Page 5

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  • Sump — Sump, n. [Cf. G. sumpf a sump in a mine, a swamp, akin to LG. sump, D. somp a swamp, Dan. & Sw. sump, and perhaps to E. swamp.] 1. (Metal.) A round pit of stone, lined with clay, for receiving the metal on its first fusion. Ray. [1913 Webster] 2 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sump — [sʌmp] n [Date: 1600 1700; Origin: sump swamp (15 20 centuries), from Middle Dutch somp or Middle Low German sump wet ground ] 1.) the lowest part of a ↑drainage system, where liquids or wastes remain 2.) BrE the part of an engine that contains… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • sump — /sump/, n. 1. a pit, well, or the like in which water or other liquid is collected. 2. Mach. a chamber at the bottom of a machine, pump, circulation system, etc., into which a fluid drains before recirculation or in which wastes gather before… …   Universalium

  • sump — early 15c., marsh, morass, from M.Du. somp or M.L.G. sump, from P.Gmc. *sumpaz. Meaning pit to collect water is first found 1650s …   Etymology dictionary

  • sump — sb., en, e, ene, i sms. sump , fx sumpområde, sumpplante …   Dansk ordbog

  • sump — ► NOUN 1) the base of an internal combustion engine, which serves as a reservoir of oil for the lubrication system. 2) a depression in the floor of a mine or cave in which water collects. 3) a cesspool. ORIGIN originally denoting a marsh: from… …   English terms dictionary

  • sump — [sump] n. [ME sompe,SWAMP] 1. a) a pit, cistern, cesspool, etc. for draining, collecting, or storing liquids b) Brit. OIL PAN 2. Mining a) a pit or pool at the bottom of a shaft or mine, in which water collects and from which it …   English World dictionary

  • sump — [ sʌmp ] noun count a low open area in the ground that waste liquid flows into …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • sump|tu|ar|y — «SUHMP chu EHR ee», adjective. having to do with the spending of money; regulating expenses, especially to control extravagance or waste. A law prohibiting any family from owning more than one car would be a sumptuary law. ╂[< Latin… …   Useful english dictionary

  • sump|tu|os|i|ty — «SUHMP chu OS uh tee», noun. expensiveness; costliness …   Useful english dictionary

  • sump — as·sump·sit; as·sump·tion; as·sump·tion·ist; as·sump·tious; as·sump·tive; con·sump·ti·ble; con·sump·tion; pre·sump·tion; pre·sump·tive; pre·sump·tive·ly; pre·sump·tu·ous; pre·sump·tu·ous·ly; pre·sump·tu·ous·ness; re·sump·tion; re·sump·tive;… …   English syllables

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