v. rubbed, rub·bing, rubs
1. To apply pressure and friction to (a surface).
2. To clean, polish, or manipulate by the application of pressure and friction.
3. To apply to a surface firmly and with friction: rub lotion on the hands; rub dye into the fabric.
4. To move (an object or objects) firmly along a surface, especially repeatedly: rub an eraser over the blackboard; rubbed my fingers over the sore spot.
5. To cause to become worn, chafed, or irritated.
6. To remove, erase, or expunge: rub away a stain; rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
a. To exert pressure or friction on something.
b. To wear or chafe with friction: My shoes were beginning to rub.
c. To cause irritation or annoyance.
2. To move along in contact with a surface; graze or scrape.
3. To be transferred or removed by contact or proximity: newsprint that rubbed off on my fingers; wished some of her luck would rub off on me.
1. The act of rubbing.
2. The application of friction and pressure: a back rub.
3. A substance or preparation applied by rubbing, especially:
a. A liniment or balm.
b. A seasoning made of ground spices and herbs, applied to the surface of meat, fish, or vegetables before cooking.
4. An unevenness on a surface.
5. An act or remark that annoys or hurts another.
6. A difficulty or obstacle: "The rub for extraterrestrial life on Europa is that the moon's surface is an icy wasteland" (William J. Broad).
To perform a brisk rubbing of the body, as in massage.
To harp on (an unpleasant matter).
1. To obliterate by or as if by rubbing.
2. Slang To kill; murder.
To mix or socialize closely: diplomats rubbing elbows with heads of state.
rub (one's) hands
To experience or display pleased anticipation, self-satisfaction, or glee.
rub (someone's) nose in Slang
To bring repeatedly and forcefully to another's attention.
rub (someone) the wrong way
To annoy; irritate: "One can see ... how [his] expression of his ideals and intentions must have rubbed many people the wrong way" (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt).
rub up on
To refresh one's knowledge of: I have to rub up on my French.
[Middle English rubben.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.