\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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Advocates for full legalization rubbed elbows with those who primarily promoted medical-use marijuana. Marco Santana,, "Marijuana advocates promote education amidst growing legalization push," 14 July 2018 The event gave fans and kids the chance to rub elbows with the former McDonald’s All-American and get a close-up look of the Larry O’Brien championship trophy. Mark Stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "NBA champion Kevon Looney urges kids to keep the peace during homecoming celebration," 29 June 2018 Shopping downtown means rubbing elbows with the thousands of people who cross from Mexico daily to work and shop. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "In border town, World Cup watchers balance team pride, anxiety about US," 29 June 2018 Having it all District VII would have been a grand place to be in 1910, when the city’s grand bourgeoisie rubbed elbows with louche literati. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, "The Best of Budapest: A Guide for Strategic Travelers," 27 June 2018 His rack of lamb looks great—pink and glistening, with a roasty brown crust rubbed with ground blood-orange peel and a bone that swings out of each chop like the grip on a saber. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Tied House is that rarest of neighborhood restaurants: a destination," 12 Apr. 2018 McLemore alleges Hill cornered her in another area of the bar and began rubbing her back. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "State account auto-tweets link to Attorney General Curtis Hill statement criticizing accuser," 12 July 2018 During more than 20,000 hours of formal observation, Morrogh-Bernard and her colleagues watched 10 orangutans occasionally chew a particular plant (which is not part of their diet) into a foamy lather and then rub it into their fur. Doug Main, Scientific American, "Orangutans Use Plant Extracts to Treat Pain," 6 Apr. 2018 And none of it goes according to plan — at one point, Harding’s choreographer admits to feeling embarrassment when the 15-year-old would rub her nose during etiquette classes. Eder Campuzano,, "The 10 best moments from the '20/20' Tonya Harding special," 12 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

His children approached for a hug or a quick scalp rub. Thomas Farragher,, "From his grandfather’s knee, lessons of love," 16 June 2018 But here’s the rub: Melonas won’t reveal which items actually sit on grocery store shelves. Janelle Nanos,, "Can Adam Melonas cook up a food revolution from his secretive Fenway lab?," 27 June 2018 But here’s the rub, the immigrants crossing the border to seek asylum include a substantial number of Black people. Britni Danielle,, "Come Again? Fox News Commentator Claims Some Black People Say Immigrant Detention Camps Are Better Than Housing Projects," 22 June 2018 Add to salad dressings, smoothies, casseroles, spices and rubs, and hot cereals. Molly Kimball,, "Why you should eat blueberries every day (or at least regularly)," 15 May 2018 Then add the brown sugar, dry rub, and bay leaves and stir well to combine. Lauren Delgado,, "Ghost Scream’s recipe for Spicy Pulled Pork Mini Sliders," 3 July 2018 Rub the entire pork butt with approximately 1/2 the rub and refrigerate for about 12 hours. Kelly Vaughan,, "BBQ Recipes," 22 June 2018 Or arrive to a meeting barefoot and then ask a female employee for a foot rub. Scott Fowler, charlotteobserver, "What's 13 feet tall, tarnished, fading? Jerry Richardson's legacy and hopefully this," 28 June 2018 So that's the rub: Do the Heat believe that cap space in 2020 will be enough to again ascend? Ira Winderman,, "ASK IRA: Will restricted free agents be off limits to Heat?," 27 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rub

Statistics for rub

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rub

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


not any or not one

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!