\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Babywearing groups have sprung up across the United States, where parents can rub elbows with fellow babywearers. CBS News, "More parents working out and going to work with babies on board," 2 Sep. 2019 Inspired by the prohibition era restaurants and bars in Manhattan, the all homemade everything menu concept keeps it packed daily and makes it the perfect place to rub elbows with the locals. Danielle Pointdujour, Essence, "Black Travel Vibes: Fall In Love With Lagos, Nigeria," 23 Aug. 2019 Epstein, a Brooklyn Jew, was a New York financier who rubbed elbows with billionaires and presidents, and sometimes those two things were the same thing. Kevin Cullen,, "Jeffrey Epstein and ‘Whitey’ Bulger: A tale of two sociopaths," 15 Aug. 2019 Individually, the greatest impression is made by Judy Mina-Ballard as a chatty second-class passenger eager to rub elbows with the first-class folks to the consternation of her merchant husband (Gary Severn). Tom Titus, Daily Pilot, "On Theater: A ‘Titanic’ hit musical at the Attic Community Theatre," 12 Aug. 2019 Giuffre and another accuser alleged that the exploitation did not stop with Epstein, who rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY, "'He was the center of it': With Jeff Epstein dead, charging co-conspirators likely an uphill battle, experts say," 10 Aug. 2019 The 21-year-old daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke attended the L.A. premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on Monday night, rubbing elbows with A-listers like Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Stranger Things' Maya Hawke Suited Up with a Flower Crown at the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Premiere," 24 July 2019 Gunna, the Young Thug affiliate who rubbed elbows with Virgil Abloh at the menswear shows in Paris a few weeks back, put in a valiant showing at the Louis Vuitton show, but Migos might still take the cake. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Who Drips Harder, Gucci Mane or Quavo?," 1 Feb. 2019 Add to that the fact that the audience is dressed not unlike the aristocratic socialites whom Barnum rubs elbows with in the movie. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show sells a fantasy of empowerment. I sorta believed it.," 3 Dec. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His Alamo Dust rub works great with pork and poultry, infusing a crimson color into the meat that brings both a sweet and savory flavor. Chuck Blount,, "10 San Antonio-made seasoning mixes to add to your barbecue game," 9 Sep. 2019 My rub with Flacco having success with the Broncos is the lack of firepower around him. Ryan O'halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos Mailbag: If starters don’t play, what can be learned from Hall of Fame Game?," 30 July 2019 Hanging Hills has again collaborated with Bear’s Smokehouse for its unique German-style lager, using fresh pumpkin smoked at Bear’s with the barbecue joint’s secret dry rub. Leeanne Griffin,, "It’s time for fall beers at Connecticut breweries. Here are eight of them.," 16 Sep. 2019 Brush room temperature pork chops with olive oil and pat oiled chops with Sassy rub., "Recipe: Sassy Smoked Pork Chops," 9 Sep. 2019 While some of his antics have been humorous, like a quick back rub for Toronto coach Nick Nurse, others, like his heckling of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, tread into uncomfortably mean-spirited territory. Ann Killion,, "Warriors investor embarrasses team, underscores how vulnerable players are," 6 June 2019 Everything from a shoulder rub to an orgasm is amplified under the influence of cannabis. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "Here’s How Weed Use Can Improve Your Sex Life," 20 Apr. 2019 Getty Images Both Harry and Meghan were greeted with a hongi (a traditional nose rub) by High Commissioner Sir Jerry Mateparae and Deputy High Commissioner David Evans. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Took a Surprise Outing Yesterday That We All Almost Missed," 20 Mar. 2019 Sometimes, Lambert said, there were back rubs and massages. Dylan Segelbaum, USA TODAY, "Former Pa. scoutmaster, citizen of the year focus of inquiry into decades of sex abuse," 28 Aug. 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.

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

30 Oct 2019

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


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

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).


to spread as a report or rumor

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!