\ 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 Apply it liberally to all parts of the steak and once again rub it in with both hands. Matt Haines, CNN Underscored, "Everything you need to grill up a perfectly seared steak," 30 July 2020 Use your hands to rub the onions and the outside of the skewers with oil, then season the onions with salt. The New York Times News Service Syndicate, The Denver Post, "Avoid the oven! Here are five recipes to make this week.," 27 July 2020 White actors performing in those shows used to rub their faces with shoe polish or greasepaint to impersonate and act out overblown racist stereotypes of Black people. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, "Don't Get Why Blackface Is Offensive? Here's Why It Is (and Why It Matters)," 27 July 2020 To give the bench an aged appearance, use a rasp or sanding block to rub through the paint along the lower edges of the legs' corners. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How To Build a Stylish Entryway Storage Bench," 27 June 2020 In the Panhandle, populations of the Karen people from Myanmar rub elbows with refugees from Laos, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. Lauren Hilgers, The New Yorker, "How Two Waves of Coronavirus Cases Swept Through the Texas Panhandle," 10 July 2020 Young residents will rub shoulders at the communal table in the lobby. John King,, "Twisty white Mira tower is dazzling on the skyline, but less so on the ground," 12 July 2020 Bison eat bark, and rub against trees to remove their winter coats. Wyatte Grantham-philips, USA TODAY, "'Best chance we have': Wild bison will return to the UK for the first time in 6,000 years," 11 July 2020 Not to mention, the top is made from a super soft leather, which doesn’t rub against your skin or annoyingly cause blisters. Rebecca Shinners,, "These Merrell Sandals Are the Most Comfortable Slides I’ve Ever Worn," 3 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The man did not wake up until officers performed a sternum rub, using knuckles against his chest. cleveland, "Man sought for punching mother of his child, nine-month-old daughter: Cleveland Heights police blotter," 7 Aug. 2020 Warren, who’d finish the game 20 of 29, ran a rub action up to that gave Holiday room to attack. J. Michael, The Indianapolis Star, "'Little' Aaron Holiday plays big down stretch in Pacers' restart opening win," 2 Aug. 2020 The rub for immunologists is that this kind of body melding shouldn’t be possible for the same reasons humans can’t just go swapping organs willy nilly. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Anglerfish Drop Their Immune Defenses to Find Love," 31 July 2020 But the rub is that many city-dwellers live in apartments and typically have to park on the street. Roberto Baldwin, Car and Driver, "GM and EVgo to Open 2700 New EV Charging Stations, with a Focus on Cities," 31 July 2020 The most recent rub with firefighters came when Weiers put up campaign signs across the city claiming that an eight-year Glendale firefighter makes $160,000. Jen Fifield, The Arizona Republic, "Why Arizona police and fire unions launched a campaign against Glendale's mayor," 31 July 2020 Sprinkle with rub, using hands to massage into all nooks and crannies. Amy Drew Thompson,, "Love cooking with beer? This time, put it in the food with beer can chicken," 23 July 2020 Baby powder, Monistat Chafing Relief Gel, and Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm will all help to combat chub rub. Elizabeth Denton, Seventeen, "16 Genius Curvy Girl Fashion Hacks to Get You Ready for Hot Girl Summer," 23 June 2020 But pure gravity becomes the rub—the dead load of the actual bridge. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "What It Takes to Build the World’s Most Extreme Bridges," 9 June 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

12 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rub.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 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

Spanish Central: Translation of rub

Nglish: Translation of rub for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rub for Arabic Speakers

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