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rub (rŭb)
v. rubbed, rub·bing, rubs
1. To apply pressure and friction to (a surface).
2. To clean, polish, or manipulate by the application of pressure and friction.
3. To apply to a surface firmly and with friction: rub lotion on the hands; rub dye into the fabric.
4. To move (an object or objects) firmly along a surface, especially repeatedly: rub an eraser over the blackboard; rubbed my fingers over the sore spot.
5. To cause to become worn, chafed, or irritated.
6. To remove, erase, or expunge: rub away a stain; rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
a. To exert pressure or friction on something.
b. To wear or chafe with friction: My shoes were beginning to rub.
c. To cause irritation or annoyance.
2. To move along in contact with a surface; graze or scrape.
3. To be transferred or removed by contact or proximity: newsprint that rubbed off on my fingers; wished some of her luck would rub off on me.
1. The act of rubbing.
2. The application of friction and pressure: a back rub.
3. A substance or preparation applied by rubbing, especially:
a. A liniment or balm.
b. A seasoning made of ground spices and herbs, applied to the surface of meat, fish, or vegetables before cooking.
4. An unevenness on a surface.
5. An act or remark that annoys or hurts another.
6. A difficulty or obstacle: "The rub for extraterrestrial life on Europa is that the moon's surface is an icy wasteland" (William J. Broad).
Phrasal Verbs:
rub down
To perform a brisk rubbing of the body, as in massage.
rub in
To harp on (an unpleasant matter).
rub out
1. To obliterate by or as if by rubbing.
2. Slang To kill; murder.
rub elbows/shoulders
To mix or socialize closely: diplomats rubbing elbows with heads of state.
rub (one's) hands
To experience or display pleased anticipation, self-satisfaction, or glee.
rub (someone's) nose in Slang
To bring repeatedly and forcefully to another's attention.
rub (someone) the wrong way
To annoy; irritate: "One can see ... how [his] expression of his ideals and intentions must have rubbed many people the wrong way" (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt).
rub up on
To refresh one's knowledge of: I have to rub up on my French.

[Middle English rubben.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    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.