Word Origin & History
c.1390, from O.Fr. rubarbe, from M.L. rheubarbarum, from Gk. rha barbaron "foreign rhubarb," from rha "rhubarb" (associated with Rha, ancient Scythian name of the River Volga) + barbaron, neut. of barbaros "foreign." Grown in China and Tibet, it was imported into ancient Europe by way of Russia. Spelling
altered in M.L. by association with rheum. European native species so called from 1650. Baseball slang meaning "loud squabble on the field" is from 1938, of unknown origin, said to have been first used by broadcaster Garry Schumacher. Perhaps connected with use of rhubarb as a word repeated by stage actors to give the impression of hubbub or conversation (attested from 1934).