\ 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 researchers reasoned that people who wear glasses are less likely to touch and rub their eyes, therefore reducing their risk of infection. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, "Who’s in 1c? Ohio plans to gradually lower age eligibility for coronavirus vaccine: The Wake Up for Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021," 23 Feb. 2021 To season your cookware, clean and dry it thoroughly and rub a couple of tablespoons of cast iron oil over the pan with a paper towel or cloth. Jennifer Blair,, "The best cast iron oil," 22 Feb. 2021 The fans who come to spring training will gather indoors, to drink and eat and rub shoulders in one of the world’s coronavirus hotspots. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, "Visiting Giants' spring training might sound fun, but COVID progress could suffer," 11 Feb. 2021 Remove from oven and rub with remaining clove garlic. Kate Merker, Good Housekeeping, "Garlicky Roasted-Radish Bruschetta," 10 Feb. 2021 Glands on the head secrete oils that cats rub onto objects and humans to claim them as their own. Star Tribune, "5 ways to tell your cat likes you," 5 Feb. 2021 Brown's plan seemed to rub members of the VAC committee the wrong way too. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, "Anger mounts over Brown's newest timeline for vaccinating Oregon teachers, seniors," 25 Jan. 2021 The best women’s rain boots for wide feet won’t constrain your toes or rub painfully on the sides of your feet or backs of your ankles. Outdoor Life, "Best rain boots for women: Keep your feet dry in soggy conditions," 25 Jan. 2021 Some people choose to dry brine their turkey — rub it with salt, basically. Washington Post, "How big a turkey should I buy? That and other Thanksgiving FAQs answered.," 17 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun New Orleans’ receivers got little separation against the Buccaneers’ physical coverage, and Tampa shut down most of New Orleans’ attempts at freeing receivers with rub concepts by disrupting routes at the line of scrimmage. Luke Johnson,, "Saints rewatch: Tampa Bay's aggressive man coverage stifled the Saints' passing attack," 19 Jan. 2021 Options include surf and turf with four lobster tails, four 10-ounce filets and The Capital Grille signature steak sauce; or bone-in porcini ribeye with four 22-ounce cuts, porcini rub and a bottle each of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic. Leeanne Griffin,, "Connecticut restaurants offer Christmas Eve, Christmas Day dining and takeout options," 10 Dec. 2020 Yet, here’s the rub: Many economists and social planners believe Social Security COLAs are too generous! Tom Margenau, Dallas News, "Changes for the new year: Here’s your Social Security update for 2021," 10 Jan. 2021 Smoke BBQ also became a locals favorite for their melt-in-your-mouth prime brisket, slow-smoked with a dry rub for 16 hours over post oak wood. Phillip Valys,, "Flame out: Smoke BBQ closes Boca Raton restaurant after two-year run," 10 Dec. 2020 The rub is that BB(27) is such an incomprehensibly huge number that even writing it down, much less running the Goldbach-falsifying machine for that many steps, isn’t remotely possible in our physical universe. Quanta Magazine, "How the Slowest Computer Programs Illuminate Math’s Fundamental Limits," 10 Dec. 2020 In a small bowl, add and mix the salt, pepper, garlic and brown sugar for the rub., "Recipe: Smoked California Tri-Tip with Chimichurri," 7 Dec. 2020 Countries agree certain shark species should be more tightly controlled; the rub, as always, is the political will to enforce it. National Geographic, "When oil drilling meets threatened wildlife," 29 Oct. 2020 If Gallup gets a slightly better rub on Bradberry, then this is a walk-in touchdown for Cooper. John Owning, Dallas News, "Film room: 3 things we learned from Cowboys-Giants, including Dalton Schultz’s potential next season," 4 Jan. 2021

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

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rub.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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

Nglish: Translation of rub for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rub for Arabic Speakers

Comments on rub

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