\ 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


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

While the chickens roast, rub the potatoes with a thin coat of olive oil and place them on a baking sheet., "Sunday Recipe: Roast Chicken Supper," 28 Aug. 2019 Suárez rubbed the top of Iglesias' helmet on their walk toward the dugout. Bobby Nightengale,, "With 10-run second inning, Cincinnati Reds pummel Pittsburgh Pirates in series opener," 30 July 2019 In a new video posted to her IGTV page, Good announces her new 30-day fitness challenge while her husband playfully rubs her belly. Jasmine Grant, Essence, "Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin Are Making Plans To Grow Their Family," 22 July 2019 Two hours into a Fort Bend County Commissioner’s Court Facilities Bond workshop, Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage was rubbing his temples in apparent frustration. Michelle Iracheta, Houston Chronicle, "Fort Bend County Commissioners review revised facilities bond proposal, clash," 19 July 2019 Justin Thomas rubs Phil Mickelson’s belly during the afternoon foursome matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup. Brian Costa, WSJ, "Dominant Europe Takes Control of the Ryder Cup," 29 Sep. 2018 Slick Woods hit the Savage runway wearing pasties and a cut-out bodysuit, rubbing her pregnant belly, reveling in her womanhood. Jessica Andrews, Teen Vogue, "Rihanna's Savage X Fenty New York Fashion Week Show Celebrated Women," 13 Sep. 2018 Collins rubbed his eyes and blinked, looking up at the ceiling in a meeting room in Davidson’s Belk Arena on Friday morning. David Scott, charlotteobserver, "'So evil.' Concentration camp images impossible for Davidson players to leave behind.," 8 July 2018 Put a few drops in a diffuser; rub a few drops on your hands, wrist, or temples; or place lavender sachets under your pillow. Danielle Corcione, Teen Vogue, "How to Fall Asleep," 12 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The rub is that CAT, spending on content, outraced CAF, soaring 36% a year over the same period, hitting $13 billion in 2018. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "This Model Shows How Netflix Can Earn its $145 Billion Valuation—Or Blow It," 31 July 2019 Coat the wings lightly with olive oil and apply the dry rub to all sides of the meat., "Recipe: Orange-Honey Sriracha Wings," 5 Aug. 2019 They can be tossed in Crown Royal barbecue sauce, house buffalo sauce or chipotle lime dry rub. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "1-pound loaded potatoes, smoked chicken wings headline new Ford Field food," 3 Aug. 2019 Profile: Laura likes to give doggie hugs and get belly rubs. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pet of the week looking for hugs," 2 Aug. 2019 These fruits and veggies are the exception to the rinse ’n’ rub rule: 1. Audrey Bruno, SELF, "How Gross Is It to Not Wash Produce Before You Eat It?," 23 July 2019 Consider rubs or marinades if eating chicken routinely to break up dinner monotony. Ann Maloney,, "The thighs have it! Chicken pieces keep juicy flavor," 25 June 2019 Stories invoke sentiment to mock it: The little girl out in the snow calling on Daddy to fix her Xmas star because Mommy’s busy having a plasto-rub from the plastic man. Tom Shippey, WSJ, "Science Fiction: Rediscovering a Golden-Age Treasure," 28 Dec. 2018 His Australian lamb is given an aggressive spice rub, then char-grilled. Wine Australia, Bon Appétit, "How Aussie Chef Aaron Brooks Brings the Unexpected to His Miami Steakhouse," 16 July 2019

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

4 Sep 2019

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
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

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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