late 14c., first attested in Scottish Eng., apparently a dial. variant of Scottish stob "to pierce, stab," of uncertain origin, perhaps a variant of stub (n.) "stake, nail." The noun meaning "wound produced by stabbing" is first attested mid-15c. Fig. use, of emotions, etc., is from 1590s. Meaning "a try" first recorded 1895, Amer.Eng. Stab in the back "treacherous deed" is first attested 1916.