from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To apply pressure and friction to (a surface).
  • intransitive verb To clean, polish, or manipulate by the application of pressure and friction.
  • intransitive verb To apply to a surface firmly and with friction.
  • intransitive verb To move (an object or objects) firmly along a surface, especially repeatedly.
  • intransitive verb To cause to become worn, chafed, or irritated.
  • intransitive verb To remove, erase, or expunge.
  • intransitive verb To exert pressure or friction on something.
  • intransitive verb To wear or chafe with friction.
  • intransitive verb To cause irritation or annoyance.
  • intransitive verb To move along in contact with a surface; graze or scrape.
  • intransitive verb To be transferred or removed by contact or proximity.
  • noun The act of rubbing.
  • noun The application of friction and pressure.
  • noun A substance or preparation applied by rubbing, especially.
  • noun A liniment or balm.
  • noun A seasoning made of ground spices and herbs, applied to the surface of meat, fish, or vegetables before cooking.
  • noun An unevenness on a surface.
  • noun An act or remark that annoys or hurts another.
  • noun A difficulty or obstacle.
  • idiom (elbows/shoulders) To mix or socialize closely.
  • idiom (rub (one's) hands) To experience or display pleased anticipation, self-satisfaction, or glee.
  • idiom (rub (someone's) nose in) To bring repeatedly and forcefully to another's attention.
  • idiom (rub (someone) the wrong way) To annoy; irritate.
  • idiom (rub up on) To refresh one's knowledge of.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To apply pressure with motion to the surface of; apply friction to by chafing or fretting with something else: as, to rub the face with a towel; to rub one hand with the other.
  • To smooth, polish, clean, or coat by means of friction or frictional applications: as, to rub brasses or silver; to rub a floor; to rub furniture.
  • To treat, act upon, or remove by frictional pressure; act with or upon by friction: with out, off, in, etc.: as, to rub out marks, spots, or stains; to rub off rust; to rub in a liniment; to rub up an ointment in a mortar.
  • To take an impression of by friction; apply frictional pressure to, as an engraved or sculptured figure or inscription, for the purpose of copying. See rubbing, 2.
  • Figuratively, to affect in any way as if by frictional contact or pressure; furbish; fret: as, to rub (usually rub up) one's memory; to rub one the wrong way. See phrases below.
  • To cause to move over another body with friction: as, to rub one's hand over a mirror.
  • To reduce or bring to smaller dimensions by friction; smooth or render less prominent by rubbing.
  • To spread by rubbing; diffuse over a surface with a rubbing instrument: as, to rub out paint.
  • To blend or otherwise prepare by trituration: as, to rub up an ointment.
  • To awaken or excite by effort; rouse; freshen: as, to rub up the memory.
  • To move or act with friction; exert frictional pressure in moving: as, to rub against or along something.
  • Figuratively, to proceed with friction or collision; do anything with more or less effort or difficulty: commonly with on, along, through, etc.
  • In the old game of bowls, to touch or graze the jack or another ball with the bowl or played ball.
  • noun An act or the action of rubbing; an application or occurrence of frictional contact: as, to take a rub with a towel; to give something a rub.
  • noun A metaphorical rubbing or chafing; an irritating or disturbing act or expression; interference; affront; sarcasm, gibe, or the like.
  • noun That which opposes or checks, as if from friction; any chafing or disturbing circumstance or predicament; an impediment, embarrassment, or stumbling-block; a pinch.
  • noun An unevenness of surface or character; a roughness or inequality; an imperfection; a flaw; a fault.
  • noun Inequality of the ground in a bowlinggreen.
  • noun In card-playing, same as rubber, 6.
  • noun A rubstone.
  • In needle-making, to straighten (a wire or needle) by rolling (it) while hot.—


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English rubben.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English rubben. Cognate with Saterland Frisian rubje ("to rub, scrape"), Low German rubblig ("rough, uneven"), Icelandic and Norwegian rubba ("to scrape"), Danish rubbe ("to rub, scrub").


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