1. A narrow strip or band of fabric, especially a fine fabric such as satin or velvet, finished at the edges and used for trimming, tying, or finishing.
a. Something, such as a tape measure, that resembles a ribbon.
b. A long thin strip: a ribbon of sand along the shore.
3. ribbons Tattered or ragged strips: a dress torn to ribbons.
4. An inked strip of cloth used for making an impression, as in a typewriter.
a. A band of colored cloth signifying membership in an order or the award of a prize.
b. A strip of colored cloth worn on the left breast of a uniform to indicate the award of a medal or decoration.
6. ribbons Informal Reins for driving horses.
7. See ledger board.
tr.v. rib·boned, rib·bon·ing, rib·bons
1. To decorate or tie with ribbons.
2. To tear into ribbons or shreds.
[Middle English ribban, riban, from Old French ruban, probably of Germanic origin; see bhendh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.