\ˈrəb \
rubbed; rubbing

Definition of rub 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to move along the surface of a body with pressure : grate

b(1) : to fret or chafe with or as if with friction

(2) : to cause discontent, irritation, or anger

2 : to continue in a situation usually with slight difficulty in spite of financial difficulties, he is rubbing along

3 : to admit of being rubbed (as for erasure or obliteration)

transitive verb

1a : to subject to or as if to the action of something moving especially back and forth with pressure and friction

b(1) : to cause (a body) to move with pressure and friction along a surface

(2) : to treat in any of various ways by rubbing

c : to bring into reciprocal back-and-forth or rotary contact

rub elbows or rub shoulders

: to associate closely : mingle

rub one's nose in

: to bring forcefully or repeatedly to one's attention

rub the wrong way



Definition of rub (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : an unevenness of surface (as of the ground in lawn bowling)

b : obstruction, difficulty the rub is that so few of the scholars have any sense of this truth themselves— Benjamin Farrington

c : something grating to the feelings (such as a gibe or harsh criticism)

d : something that mars serenity

2 : the application of friction with pressure an alcohol rub

3 US : a combination of spices that is rubbed into the surface of meat before the meat is cooked used a dry rub on the pork ribs

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Examples of rub in a Sentence


Could you rub my shoulders? He blinked and rubbed his eyes. The cat rubbed itself against my leg. The cat rubbed against my leg. Don't rub too hard or you'll tear the paper. He rubbed his hands with glee. There was a squeak when the boards rubbed together. The back of my shoe is rubbing against my heel and giving me a blister. There are marks where the chair has rubbed against the wall. There are marks where the chair has been rubbing the wall.


She's an amazing cook, but she rarely has time to make meals. There's the rub. He used his favorite rub on the steaks. a dry rub for chicken
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Assigned to the case is the troubled but brilliant detective Sofia Karppi (the gorgeous Pihla Viitala) and an upstart young partner Sakari (Lauri Tilkanen) who rubs her the wrong way. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Which of These New TV International Thrillers Should You Binge?," 30 Aug. 2018 That rubbed some residents of the East End neighborhood, as well as Military Reserve enthusiasts, nature lovers and Foothills trail users, the wrong way. Sven Berg, idahostatesman, "Locals want input on Boise's bike park plan. The City Council could decide soon.," 10 July 2018 But the Bridgeport mayor and petitioning candidate’s attempt to cast himself as a populist alternative to Lamont — just as Dannel P. Malloy did in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary — rubbed some of Lamont’s supporters the wrong way. Neil Vigdor,, "Eight Is Enough? Joe Ganim Derides Ned Lamont For Multitude Of Bathrooms," 4 June 2018 Comparing the number of people who died all these months later to show Trump was wrong will undoubtedly rub his supporters the wrong way. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Trump once favorably compared Puerto Rico’s death toll to Katrina’s. A study now says twice as many died in Puerto Rico.," 29 May 2018 His confidence may rub some people the wrong way, but Ruis is beginning to earn the respect of the sport’s biggest names. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "Owner wants to prove 'you don't have to be a prince' to win Derby," 3 May 2018 Since Kanye West's return to the limelight, his behavior and statements have rubbed several of his contemporaries the wrong way. Carl Lamarre, Billboard, "The Game Says 'Kanye Will Always Be a Friend of Mine,' Despite Recent Actions: Exclusive," 3 May 2018 For someone who grew up with — and readily acknowledges — his privilege, those remarks have inevitably rubbed some the wrong way. azcentral, "Cardinals' Josh Rosen a colorful character, from earlier days to 'pissed' on draft night," 27 Apr. 2018 His attitude rubbed some people in Denver the wrong way. Stephen Holder, Indianapolis Star, "Josh McDaniels backs out after Colts name him coach," 6 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Very important news, fam: Meghan Markle was spotted giving Prince Harry a back rub during an official royal engagement on Wednesday (October 3). Zoe Weiner, Glamour, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Were So Touchy-Feely at Today's Royal Engagement," 3 Oct. 2018 Here’s the rub, though: there are only a handful of companies that make OLED panels, and Sony isn’t one of them. Dan Seifert, The Verge, "Sony A8F TV review: high-end headaches," 2 Nov. 2018 But here’s the rub: Some parts of the process can take up to several hours to complete, during which time messages—and adorable niece photos—may be unable to be sent or get lost. Joanna Stern, WSJ, "Ugh, Green Bubbles! Apple’s iMessage Makes Switching to Android Hard," 18 Oct. 2018 Between the lines: The rub is, in part, that states are supposed to run their own elections, and some argue the audits could lead to federal overreach. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Report: Trump tabloid pal cut deal with feds," 24 Aug. 2018 The rub: Cooking meat at high temperatures over an open flame to create that great grilled flavor also creates cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Andrea Thelen, Ms, Detroit Free Press, "6 tips for healthy and safe grilling," 9 July 2018 Products offered include lip balm, muscle rub, bug spray, deodorant, toothpaste, syrups, teas, iron supplements and more. Austen Erblat,, "Sunshine Organic Herbals now open in Delray Beach," 6 July 2018 Season ribs on both sides with all of dry rub, patting it on if needed. Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appetit, "Instant Pot Glazed and Grilled Ribs," 25 June 2018 La Barbecue La Barbecue specializes in Central Texas-style barbecue, slathering meats with salty, savory rubs. Jenna Scatena, Condé Nast Traveler, "10 Best BBQ in Austin," 27 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rub.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of rub


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for rub


Middle English rubben; akin to East Frisian rubben to rub, scrape, Icelandic rubba to scrape

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Statistics for rub

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rub

The first known use of rub was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for rub



English Language Learners Definition of rub

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move something (such as your hand or an object) back and forth along the surface of (something) while pressing

: to move (two things) back and forth against each other

: to move back and forth many times against something in a way that causes pain or damage



English Language Learners Definition of rub (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of rubbing a surface with your hands or an object

the rub : something that causes a difficulty or problem

: a combination of spices that is rubbed into the surface of meat before the meat is cooked


\ˈrəb \
rubbed; rubbing

Kids Definition of rub

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to move along the surface of something with pressure Kitty rubbed against my legs.

2 : to move back and forth against something in a way that causes pain or damage The back of my shoe is rubbing against my heel.

3 : to scour, polish, or smear by pressure and friction He rubbed oil on the wood.

rub elbows with

: to meet and talk with in a friendly way Stink got to rub elbows with the president …— Megan McDonald, Judy Moody

rub in

: to keep reminding someone of (something unpleasant) I know I looked silly. Don't rub it in.

rub off

: to come off a surface and often stick to another surface by rubbing The ink rubbed off on my fingers.

rub the wrong way

: to cause to be angry : irritate



Kids Definition of rub (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of rubbing a back rub

2 : something that causes a problem


\ˈrəb \

Medical Definition of rub 

1 : the application of friction with pressure an alcohol rub

2 : a sound heard in auscultation that is produced by the friction of one structure moving against another

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More from Merriam-Webster on rub

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rub

Spanish Central: Translation of rub

Nglish: Translation of rub for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rub for Arabic Speakers

Comments on rub

What made you want to look up rub? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

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