\ ˈrəb How to pronounce rub (audio) \
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

Verb 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. Noun 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 The emphasis Biden is placing so far on Washington experience may rub some Democrats the wrong way, highlighting a divide within the party the former vice president is likely to confront often. John Fritze, USA TODAY, "Biden picks for top White House jobs draw contrast with Trump not only on policy but also style," 18 Nov. 2020 Combine coarse ground salt and coarse ground pepper, and rub it into the pork. Robert Vrabel, Popular Mechanics, "How To Make Your Own Smoker Out of a Whiskey Barrel," 6 June 2020 Leave on for one to two minutes, rub into skin, then rinse. Jessica Teich, Good Housekeeping, "11 Fast and Easy Ways to Minimize Your Pores, According to Skin Pros," 29 May 2020 Don’t rub it into the fabric; a scrubbing action will make the stain worse! Arricca Elin Sansone, Country Living, "Here's How to Remove Paint from Clothes," 22 Oct. 2020 And because one photo wasn't enough to rub it into New England's face, the football team revealed a total of 41 pictures -- of Brady in his away and home uniforms in many different poses. Alicia Lee, CNN, "The first photos of Tom Brady in his Buccaneers uniform are here and they're as jarring as you'd expect," 16 June 2020 In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub the sugars and orange zest together. Washington Post, "Tart roasted cranberries and a billowy meringue topping take this pie in a bright, bold direction," 12 Nov. 2020 Toast the baguette slices and rub each slice with garlic. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Ways to enjoy the winter squashes of autumn," 3 Nov. 2020 Use a massage oil and rub your partner up and down, hitting their chest, shoulders, and even their nipples, Manta adds. Molly Longman,, "Spend The ‘Extra Hour’ From Daylight Saving Time On Sex, Not An Existential Crisis," 30 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Even for those who are staying home most of the time, there’s no greater joy than a foot rub. Popular Science, "These seven massagers can help eliminate your pent-up stress," 12 Nov. 2020 Like a signpost rub, an annual scrape may also be used by multiple bucks. Hal Blood, Outdoor Life, "3 Great Places to Take a Stand in the Big Woods," 10 Nov. 2020 There were large ground scrapes and a fresh rub on a mature tree. Tony Kennedy, Star Tribune, "State park hunts feeding the youth movement," 7 Nov. 2020 This can also be used supplementally to fill in any gaps. : Even quicker than rub-on, this is easy to use but doesn't last particularly long. Anthony Marcusa,, "The best ski and snowboard wax," 10 Oct. 2020 Big wings prepares whole bone-in wings with a choice of 15 sauces or rubs, such as Buffalo ranch rub, garlic Parmesan, Kansas City barbecue sauce, white barbecue sauce and a sauce called MKE Lava. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ghost kitchens Fiesta Panda, a Mexican-Asian restaurant, and Big Wings open in Milwaukee," 9 Oct. 2020 And there’s the rub — in all but the simplest systems, such as a hydrogen atom, the Hamiltonian becomes too complicated for researchers to calculate the dynamics of the wave function exactly. Quanta Magazine, "Alchemy Arrives in a Burst of Light," 30 Sep. 2020 The dogs that race the following day get a manicure, a rub-down, a once-over for any issues. Ashley Stimpson, Longreads, "Shades of Grey," 31 Oct. 2020 And that’s the rub with the show; something about it has gotten under our collective skin. Raven Smith, Vogue, "Trés Cliché: Deconstructing the Exquisite Tackiness of Emily in Paris," 7 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for rub

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for rub

Last Updated

28 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rub.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for rub


How to pronounce rub (audio)

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
formal : something that causes a difficulty or problem
US : a combination of spices that is rubbed into the surface of meat before the meat is cooked


\ ˈrəb How to pronounce rub (audio) \
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 How to pronounce rub (audio) \

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

Nglish: Translation of rub for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rub for Arabic Speakers

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