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[ruhb] /rʌb/
verb (used with object), rubbed, rubbing.
to subject the surface of (a thing or person) to pressure and friction, as in cleaning, smoothing, polishing, coating, massaging, or soothing:
to rub a table top with wax polish; to rub the entire back area.
to move (something) back and forth or with a rotary motion, as against or along another surface:
to rub the cloth over the glass pane.
to spread or apply (something) with pressure and friction over something else or a person:
to rub lotion on her chapped hands.
to move (two things) with pressure and friction over or back and forth over each other (often followed by together):
He rubbed his hands together.
to mark, polish, force, move, etc. (something) by pressure and friction (often followed by over, in, or into).
to remove by pressure and friction; erase (often followed by off or out).
verb (used without object), rubbed, rubbing.
to exert pressure and friction on something.
to move with pressure against something.
to admit of being rubbed in a specified manner:
Chalk rubs off easily.
Chiefly British. to proceed, continue in a course, or keep going with effort or difficulty (usually followed by on, along, or through):
He manages to rub along.
an act or instance of rubbing:
an alcohol rub.
something that annoys or irritates one's feelings, as a sharp criticism, a sarcastic remark, or the like:
to resent rubs concerning one's character.
an annoying experience or circumstance.
an obstacle, impediment, or difficulty:
We'd like to travel, but the rub is that we have no money.
a rough or abraded area caused by rubbing.
Verb phrases
rub down,
  1. to smooth off, polish, or apply a coating to:
    to rub a chair down with sandpaper.
  2. to give a massage to.
rub off on, to become transferred or communicated to by example or association:
Some of his good luck must have rubbed off on me.
rub out,
  1. to obliterate; erase.
  2. Slang. to murder:
    They rubbed him out before he could get to the police.
rub it in, Informal. to emphasize or reiterate something unpleasant in order to tease or annoy:
The situation was embarrassing enough without having you rub it in.
rub salt in / into someone's wounds. salt1 (def 23).
rub the wrong way, to irritate; offend; annoy:
a manner that seemed to rub everyone the wrong way.
rub up, British Informal. to refresh one's memory of (a subject, language, etc.).
Origin of rub
1300-50; 1860-65 for def 18b; Middle English rubben (v.); cognate with Frisian rubben, Danish rubbe, Swedish rubba
Related forms
unrubbed, adjective
well-rubbed, adjective
14. hitch, catch, thing, trouble, pinch. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rubbed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Ronald then stripped, and was smeared all over with the ointment, which was then rubbed into him.

  • She merely turned her head and rubbed his knee with her nose.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • From acorns the Indians made the oil with which they rubbed themselves.

    The Old English Herbals Eleanour Sinclair Rohde
  • And he chuckled and rubbed his lean hands together as I had so often seen him do.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • Doctor Benton rubbed his chin and there was serious anxiety in the movement.

    Robin Frances Hodgson Burnett
British Dictionary definitions for rubbed


verb rubs, rubbing, rubbed
to apply pressure and friction to (something) with a circular or backward and forward motion
to move (something) with pressure along, over, or against (a surface)
to chafe or fray
(transitive) to bring into a certain condition by rubbing: rub it clean
(transitive) to spread with pressure, esp in order to cause to be absorbed: he rubbed ointment into his back
(transitive) to mix (fat) into flour with the fingertips, as in making pastry
foll by off, out, away, etc. to remove or be removed by rubbing
(bowls) (of a bowl) to be slowed or deflected by an uneven patch on the green
(transitive) often foll by together. to move against each other with pressure and friction (esp in the phrases rub one's hands, often a sign of glee, anticipation, or satisfaction, and rub noses, a greeting among Inuit people)
(informal) rub someone's nose in it, to remind someone unkindly of his failing or error
rub up the wrong way, to arouse anger (in); annoy
(informal) rub shoulders with, rub elbows with, to mix with socially or associate with
the act of rubbing
the rub, an obstacle or difficulty (esp in the phrase there's the rub)
something that hurts the feelings or annoys; rebuke
(bowls) an uneven patch in the green
any roughness or unevenness of surface
  1. (golf) an incident of accidental interference with the ball
  2. (informal) a piece of good or bad luck
Word Origin
C15: perhaps from Low German rubben, of obscure origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for rubbed



early 14c., transitive and intransitive, of uncertain origin, perhaps related to East Frisian rubben "to scratch, rub," and Low German rubbeling "rough, uneven," or similar words in Scandinavian (cf. Danish rubbe "to rub, scrub," Norwegian rubba), of uncertain origin. Related: Rubbed; rubbing.

To rub (someone) the wrong way is from 1853; probably the notion is of cats' fur. To rub noses in greeting as a sign of friendship (attested from 1822) formerly was common among Eskimos, Maoris, and some other Pacific Islanders. Rub out "obliterate" is from 1560s; underworld slang sense of "kill" is recorded from 1848, American English. Rub off "remove by rubbing" is from 1590s; meaning "have an influence" is recorded from 1959.


"act of rubbing," 1610s, from rub (v.); earlier "obstacle, inequality on ground" (1580s, common in 17c.) which is the figure in Hamlet's there's the rub (1602).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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rubbed in Medicine

rub (rŭb)

  1. The application of friction and pressure.

  2. Such a procedure applied to the body.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for rubbed



  1. A dancing party (1920s+ Students)
  2. A session of hugging and kissing (1930s+ Students)
  3. A complaint; beef, bitch: What's your rub? (1990s+)


rub out (1848+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with rubbed
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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