There are 2 main definitions of rub in English:

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rub 1

Pronunciation: /rəb/

verb (rubs, rubbing, rubbed)

[with object]
1Move one’s hand or a cloth repeatedly back and forth on the surface of (something) with firm pressure: she rubbed her arm, where she had a large bruise [no object]: he rubbed at the dirt on his jeans
More example sentences
  • Jerry Davis shook his head with a grim set to his firm jaw, rubbing the back of his neck with his large, callused hand.
  • It is important not to just rub the skin over the area but to apply firm downward pressure with the thumb, knuckle or elbow.
  • Julia has her arms crossed and she rubs them, obviously cold.
1.1Move (one’s hand, a cloth, or another object) back and forth over a surface: he rubbed a finger around the rim of his mug
More example sentences
  • She swallowed hard and moved, rubbing the cloth over a greasy part of the counter yet to be attended to in her study.
  • She moved away from the wall and rubbed a hand over her face.
  • She found herself twirling her brown hair around her fingertips and rubbing the toe of her shoe on the floor.
1.2(With reference to two things) to move or cause to move to and fro against each other with a certain amount of pressure and friction: [with object]: many insects make noises by rubbing parts of their bodies together [no object]: the ice breaks into small floes that rub against each other
More example sentences
  • Carefully avoiding letting her trouser legs rub against each other causing a large amount of sound, she eased her way to the door and burst it open.
  • The bony surfaces are covered with cartilage and separated by a small disk, which prevents them from rubbing against each other.
  • The only noises to be heard over the crackling of the fire were the branches of the trees rubbing eerily against each other, and the occasional rumble of thunder.
1.3 [no object] (Of shoes or other hard items in contact with the skin) cause pain through friction: badly fitting shoes can rub painfully
More example sentences
  • I had a blister on my heel that burned badly as my oversized shoes rubbed up and down.
  • Rucksacks and running shoes rub, turning burns into sores.
  • Avoid using tight fitting diapers that could rub against the skin.
chafe, pinch;
hurt, be painful
1.4Make dry, clean, or smooth with pressure from a hand, cloth, or other object: she found a towel and began rubbing her hair she rubbed herself as dry as possible
More example sentences
  • She towel dried her hair, rubbing the black, wet strands.
  • The woman watched after him for a moment, then began to rub herself completely dry.
  • I realised that Edward was rubbing me dry with the large towel.
1.5Spread (ointment, polish, or a substance of similar consistency) over a surface with repeated movements of one’s hand or a cloth: she took out her sunblock and rubbed some on her nose
More example sentences
  • Next, a mixture of fine sea salt, cocoa, vitamin C and Chocolate Body Syrup is rubbed into the skin.
  • The ointment must be rubbed into the area, not just applied superficially.
  • At the time, a cream like substance was being rubbed onto my scalp.
1.6 (rub something in/into/through) Work an ingredient into (a mixture) by breaking and blending it with firm movements of one’s fingers: sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the fat
More example sentences
  • Sift the flour, cinnamon and sugar into a bowl and rub the butter in until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
  • Alternatively, rub the butter into the dry ingredients in a large mixing-bowl until combined.
  • Sift the flour into a bowl, rub the butter in until it looks like fine bread crumbs and add the oatmeal.
1.7Reproduce the design of (a gravestone, memorial tablet, etc.) by laying paper on it and rubbing the paper with charcoal, colored chalk, etc.
Example sentences
  • You can rub the names, inscriptions, dates and more, but also think about rubbing the beautiful artistic carvings you see.
1.8 [no object] (Of a bowl in lawn bowling) be slowed or diverted by the unevenness of the ground.


1 [usually in singular] An act of rubbing: she pulled out a towel and gave her head a quick rub
More example sentences
  • The pain startled him out of his thoughts, but a quick rub of the injury relieved the throbbing.
  • I strolled over to him, gave him a friendly rub, and then turned to back to tend to Chaz.
  • Befriend an alley cat that could benefit from some catnip and a few rubs.
1.1An ointment designed to be rubbed on the skin to ease pain: a muscle rub
More example sentences
  • I also keep Bach Rescue Remedy in my first-aid kit, along with a good muscle balm and a chest rub.
  • She discovered a recipe book of 19th-century balms - everything from boot wax to saddle polish - and began to cook up all kinds of potions, rubs, and salves.
  • Has anyone ever written to tell you that a muscle rub works to quell the itching of mosquito bites?
2 (usually the rub) A difficulty, especially one of central importance in a situation: that was the rub—she had not cared enough
From Shakespeare's Hamlet ( iii. i. 65)
More example sentences
  • Now here is the rub: you cannot lower both error rates simultaneously.
  • Anyone who has read the script for the film knows that it's a singularly brilliant piece of writing, but the rub is that screenplays are written to be filmed, not to be read.
  • But here is the rub: the performance lacks in integration what it provides in imaginative ambition.
3(In lawn bowling) an uneven patch of ground that impedes or diverts a bowl.
Example sentences
  • He got a brilliant rub with his bowl to Farley's corner and he was suddenly a bowl of odds clear again.



not have two —— to rub together

informal Have none or hardly any of the specified item, especially money: she doesn’t have two nickels to rub together
More example sentences
  • I work full time and I still don't have two pennies to rub together.
  • Between the miserable lot of them they don't have two good ideas to rub together.
  • When I was struggling and started at school, I didn't have two pennies to rub together.

rub elbows (or shoulders)

Associate or come into contact (with another person): he rubbed elbows with TV stars at the party
More example sentences
  • Back then the place was a hubbub of activity at the weekends, with walkers, families and locals rubbing shoulders and jostling for elbow room in front of a glowing open fire.
  • He admits he misses socialising and rubbing shoulders with Royalty during the horse trials.
  • Denis was well known among the racing fraternity having rubbed shoulders with them for many years.
informal hang around/out, hobnob

rub one's hands

Rub one’s hands together to show keen satisfaction.
Example sentences
  • Instead, he rubbed his hands together, satisfied.
  • Then he rubs his hands together in anticipation.
  • Statuesquely seated on a sofa, with her carefully straightened hair cascading down her back, she practically rubs her hands together in glee when she talks about her stint as a crime reporter.

rub it in (or rub someone's nose in something)

informal Emphatically draw someone’s attention to an embarrassing or painful fact: they don’t just beat you, they rub it in
More example sentences
  • Aren't you going to be happy unless you're rubbing my nose in the fact I got caught?
  • He has won the argument, but there is no point in rubbing his opponent's nose in it.
  • ‘I hate to rub your nose in it, but it is beautiful sunshine here in Athens,’ he joked.
emphasize it, stress it, underline it, highlight it;
go on (and on) about it, harp on it
informal rub someone's nose in it

rub noses

Rub one’s nose against someone else’s in greeting (especially as traditional among Maoris and some other peoples).
Example sentences
  • She rubbed noses with Phoenix who, in the way of these things, had been asked to ‘present’ her with her prize.
  • I'm told that New Zealand's Maori tribesmen rub noses when they meet, that Tibetans stick out their tongues to say hello, and that some East Africans might say howdy by spitting at your feet.
  • Following this, the group had the opportunity to rub noses - literally - with the local Maori people as the members were introduced to the typical Maori method of greeting friends.

rub of the green

Golf Any accidental or unpredictable influence on the course or position of the ball.
6.1Good fortune, especially as determining events in an athletic contest.
Example sentences
  • Nevertheless both teams acquitted themselves very well and did the school proud and were somewhat unlucky on the night as they didn't quite get the rub of the green in both matches.
  • We just didn't get the rub of the green but the pleasing thing for me was that we were positive in everything we did and we tried to win the game.
  • Now we've just got to keep going, keep our fingers crossed and hope we get the rub of the green.

rub someone (or British rub someone up) the wrong way

Irritate or repel someone as by stroking a cat against the lie of its fur.
Example sentences
  • They just rub me up the wrong way.
  • But I don't think for a minute that he's no good, he just rubs me up the wrong way.
  • Also, the actress really rubs me the wrong way somehow.
irritate, annoy, irk, vex, provoke, displease, exasperate, infuriate, get on someone's nerves, put out, pique, upset, nettle, ruffle someone's feathers, make someone's hackles rise, try someone's patience, grate on
informal aggravate, get, get to, bug, miff, peeve, rile, needle, tick off, tee off, get under someone's skin, get in someone's hair, get/put someone's back up, get someone's goat, rankle, ride

Phrasal verbs


rub something down

Dry, smooth, or clean something by rubbing.
Example sentences
  • Dig out your tools from the back of the shed, clean them up, rub them down, sharpen and oil them and head outdoors.
  • He looked over the boot he was working on, spit on it, and then began rubbing it down with a rag furiously.
  • Spray a little silicone or Teflon spray lubricant on the tracks and rub them down with fine steel wool.
1.1Rub the sweat from a horse or one’s own body after exercise.
Example sentences
  • Imprinting involves rubbing the foal down with towels and touching all areas of the body in order to desensitize him.
  • We brought the horses into the barn rubbed them down, and fed them.
  • She rubbed the horses down and let them loose among the grass to graze.
clean, sponge, wash;

rub off

Be transferred by contact or association: when parents are having a hard time, their tension can easily rub off on the kids
More example sentences
  • Celebrity rubs off on the people surrounding the glittering stars, too.
  • What would be nice is if the negative people could try and be positive because that rubs off on the players.
  • There seems to be a natural intensity and desire there to put in a top performance every week, so it will be interesting to see how this rubs off on the rest of the players.
be transferred to, be passed on to, be transmitted to, be communicated to;
affect, influence

rub someone out

informal, chiefly North American Kill someone.
Example sentences
  • So of course they're gonna rub him out, or kill him, or something.
  • I've often wondered why they haven't just rubbed him out.
  • Two of their assassins were sent in to rub him out for good.

rub something out

Erase pencil marks with an eraser.
Example sentences
  • You make your mark and that is it, you can't rub it out.
  • They quite often have to rub their work out at the end of the day and use the paper again.
  • It was built unsymmetrically because Stalin wrote on the plans; they were redesigned around his scrawl because nobody had the courage to rub it out.


Middle English (as a verb): perhaps from Low German rubben, of unknown ultimate origin. The noun dates from the late 16th century.

  • The origin of this word is unknown. If you want to impress the consequences of a mistake on someone you may be tempted to rub their nose in it. This comes from house-training puppies or kittens: literally rubbing their noses in any deposit they may make in the house in an attempt to dissuade them from repeating the offence. To rub someone up the wrong way, or irritate them, is another pet-related image, from the idea of stroking a cat against the lie of its fur. Someone pointing out a particular difficulty may say there's the rub. The expression comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, when Hamlet says: ‘To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub.’ In the game of bowls a rub is an impediment that prevents a bowl running smoothly. The same idea is found in the rub of the green, which in golf is an accidental interference with the flight or roll of the ball, such as hitting a tree. More broadly it is also luck or fortune, especially in sport. Rubber, recorded from the mid 16th century, is based on the verb rub. The original sense was ‘an implement (such as a hard brush) used for rubbing and cleaning’. Because an early use of the elastic substance once known as caoutchouc was to rub out pencil marks, rubber acquired the sense ‘eraser’ in the late 18th century. The meaning was subsequently generalized in the mid 19th century to refer to the substance in any form or use, at first often differentiated as India rubber.

Words that rhyme with rub

blub, bub, chub, Chubb, club, cub, drub, dub, flub, grub, hub, nub, pub, scrub, shrub, slub, snub, stub, sub, tub

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: rub

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There are 2 main definitions of rub in English:

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Entry from British & World English dictionary


Russian rouble(s).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: RUB

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