any of several plants belonging to the genus Rheum, of the buckwheat family, as R. officinale, having a medicinal rhizome, and R. rhabarbarum, having edible leafstalks.
the rhizome of any medicinal species of this plant, forming a combined cathartic and astringent.
the edible, fleshy leafstalks of R. rhabarbarum, used in making pies, preserves, etc.
Slang. a quarrel or squabble.

1350–1400; Middle English rubarb, reubarb < Old French r(e)ubarbe < Medieval Latin reubarbarum < Greek rhéon bárbaron foreign rhubarb

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rhubarb (ˈruːbɑːb)
1.  any of several temperate and subtropical plants of the polygonaceous genus Rheum, esp R. rhaponticum (common garden rhubarb), which has long green and red acid-tasting edible leafstalks, usually eaten sweetened and cooked
2.  the leafstalks of this plant
3.  a related plant, Rheum officinale, of central Asia, having a bitter-tasting underground stem that can be dried and used medicinally as a laxative or astringent
4.  slang (US), (Canadian) a heated discussion or quarrel
5.  the noise made by actors to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random
6.  to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random
[C14: from Old French reubarbe, from Medieval Latin reubarbum, probably a variant of rha barbarum barbarian rhubarb, from rha rhubarb (from Greek, perhaps from Rha ancient name of the Volga) + Latin barbarus barbarian]

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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).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
She lifts a rhubarb tart out of the oven and puts it on the bench.
It is treated as a grain, though actually it is a fruit seed, related to rhubarb and sorrel.
But the crucial, less predictable flourish was a rhubarb foam on top of that.
Rhubarb is a relative of buckwheat and has an earthy, sour flavor.
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