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noun (1)

plural dabs
: a gentle touch or stroke : pat
A moment of silence, a dab at the eye, a painful swallow before the roar of applause.Masha Leon
: something that is dabbed on : daub, smear
… spots of bright-pink wild cyclamen … like the paint dabs on a pointillist's canvas.Vogue
: a small amount
The flat shell should be prized off and the oysters eaten raw, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dab of horseradish if you like.Nancy Jenkins
A dab of mousse works in seconds "shaping" a style in the time it takes a woman to run her fingers through her hair.Shari Miller Sims
: a concentrated extract of cannabis that is prepared by treating cannabis with a solvent (such as butane) and is used by heating the concentrate on a hot surface (as of metal or glass) and inhaling the vapors

Note: Dab occurs in several forms including a resinous sticky oil, a crumbly wax, or a brittle solid.

Marijuana potency is described in terms of the percentage of THC. Most marijuana has about 10 to 15 percent THC. Dab has a THC of 80 to 90 percent.Chuck Biedka
Dab is a product made by using butane (a highly flammable gas used in camping fuel canisters and cigarette lighters) to extract the concentrated cannabis oil from plants …Jeff Linville
: a single dose of dab
Nothing like a joint, a dab is a small dose of highly concentrated cannabis heated on a hot surface and then inhaled.Amy Hansen
The last thing he would remember in the morning was taking a shot of spiced rum and a dab of marijuana.Gavin Butler
: a dance move originating in hip-hop that is performed by bending one arm at the elbow, dropping the head so that the face is near the crook of that arm, and usually extending the other arm so that it is parallel with the forearm of the bent arm
He does the dab, a dance move that looks like he's sneezing into his elbow.Jessica Contrera
During Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential campaign, she learned to do the dab—a dance that Migos made popular …Sheldon Pearce
As Newton appears to show in his coaching tips, there's more to the dab. The quarterback has Bailey make sure to lean into the move, ducking his head down while sharply raising his front arm and jutting his back arm backward.Nick O'Malley
archaic : a sudden blow or thrust : poke

see also dab hand, smack-dab


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dabbed; dabbing; dabs

transitive verb

: to strike or touch lightly : pat
Her eyes watered occasionally, and she was forced to dab them with a tissue.John Grisham
: to apply lightly or irregularly : daub
In the past, restoring a frescoed wall involved little more than covering the cracks and dabbing fresh paint on the surface in an attempt to recapture some of its original color.George Armstrong
Dab or spray the scent on your … wrist.Harper's Bazaar
slang : to inhale the vapors of (a heated concentrate of cannabis)
More than half of students who use marijuana reported that they dab marijuana to get high.Rachel O'Bryan
In 2015, 28 percent of Colorado high-schoolers who admitted to consuming marijuana within the past month said that they had also dabbed it, according to the CDPHE [Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment].Thomas Mitchell

intransitive verb

: to touch or pat something lightly
The Doctor paused to remove his glasses and dab at his eyes with a handkerchief.T. Coraghessan Boyle
slang : to inhale the vapors of a heated concentrate of cannabis : to take a dab (see dab entry 1 sense 4b)
And if you have ever dabbed …, or even just smoked some weed that was profoundly stronger than your usual stuff, that short list of symptoms probably sounds familiar.Meagan Angus
In Wisconsin, health officials are still investigating increasing reports of people with severe lung disease who say they've recently vaped or "dabbed," which involves inhaling marijuana products.Michael Nedelman
: to perform a dab (see dab entry 1 sense 5) or a series of dabs (as while dancing or in celebration)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made the move famous last year after he starting dabbing as his touchdown celebration.Meg Anderson
Migos joined Corden for a little Carpool Karaoke on Tuesday, where the late-night host offered his sincere condolences on behalf of uncool dads everywhere for driving their dance move into the ground. Then he immediately dabbed to Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."Halle Kiefer
dabber noun
plural dabbers
dabbing noun
plural dabbings
The brush work is a furious battle ground—there are … fierce, smudgy dabbings of brute colour … Michael Glover
… an opportunity for cannabis companies to promote their concentrates and dabbing aficionados to enjoy a day on the couch. Veronica Irwin
Dabbing, a dance move which some say looks like sneezing, originated from hip-hop … Aarushi Ahuja


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noun (2)

: flatfish
especially : any of several flounders (genus Limanda, especially L. limanda) compare sand dab


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noun (3)

chiefly British
: a skillful person


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Dictionary of American Biography

Examples of dab in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Some people are perfectly content eating their food as is, but for others a meal is not complete without a drizzle of this and a dab of that. Alaina Chou, Bon Appétit, 16 Nov. 2023 After removing all the gum using one of our strategies below, pretreat the area with stain remover spray or a hefty dab of dish or laundry soap before laundering. Ann Wilson, Better Homes & Gardens, 25 Oct. 2023 This Strawberry Pavlova recipe calls in a splash of lemon juice, a dab of lemon zest, a drip of vanilla extract, and a pinch of kosher salt. Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme, Bon Appétit, 17 July 2023 Dabbing involves vaporizing the product using a heated surface, typically a dab rig or an electronic device like the Dart XL. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 30 July 2023 When spreading a dab of foundation on the back of our hand, the formula felt smooth, without being too thick or runny. Madison Yauger, Peoplemag, 13 June 2023 Her beauty regimen was just as un-diva-like: a little face powder, mascara and a dab of Vaseline on her lips. Nancy Mattia, Peoplemag, 21 Apr. 2023 Place two small dabs of mustard on the snake’s head and top with peppercorns to create eyes. Charlyne Mattox, Country Living, 27 July 2023 Topped it with a few taco toppings and a dab of sour cream. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 11 July 2023
Then, the 24-karat gold leaf mask is applied and left to soak in; once removed, a face oil containing gold flakes and rose extract is dabbed on, leaving you looking like royalty. Katie Lockhart, Robb Report, 21 Nov. 2023 As fans cheered her afterward, Rapinoe dabbed her eyes. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Nov. 2023 To remove an ink mark, for example, the best fix is to spritz a cotton swab with hair spray containing alcohol, and then dab the ink and feather it out, says McDonald. Yolanda Wikiel, wsj.com, 13 Sep. 2023 Moments later, during the commercial break, she was spotted out of her seat, trying unsuccessfully to stop the tears, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue and heading toward an exit — perhaps seeking a moment to collect herself. Nancy Kruh, Peoplemag, 10 Nov. 2023 Gross, a dab acting veteran with a sterling stage reputation, is almost too faithful to John’s limited emotional repertoire. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 23 Oct. 2023 Then pour a small amount of gold, pearl, or black polish onto a piece of foil and dab a sponge into the polish. Lisa Desantis, Glamour, 18 Oct. 2023 To appropriately dry the item, use a cloth to dab off any excess moisture and then place it somewhere warm and dry. Cori Sears, Better Homes & Gardens, 6 Oct. 2023 Rather than try to dab primer and then paint into all these divots, wait an hour or two for the primer to dry, then fill the crevices with paintable acrylic caulk, such as Dap Alex painter’s acrylic latex caulk ($2.99 a tube at Ace). Jeanne Huber, Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dab.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English dabbe

Noun (2)

Anglo-French dabbe

Noun (3)

origin unknown

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 6


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

1691, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dab was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near dab

Cite this Entry

“Dab.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dab. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 noun
: a quick blow or thrust : poke
: a gentle touch or stroke : pat


2 of 3 verb
dabbed; dabbing
: to strike or touch lightly
dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief
: to apply with quick light strokes : daub
dabber noun


3 of 3 noun
: a small amount
just a dab more ice cream

More from Merriam-Webster on dab

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