There are 2 main definitions of scrub in English:

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scrub 1

Line breaks: scrub

verb (scrubs, scrubbing, scrubbed)

[with object]
1Rub (someone or something) hard so as to clean them, typically with a brush and water: he had to scrub the floor she was scrubbing herself down at the sink [no object]: she scrubbed furiously at the plates
More example sentences
  • Its clothing is bleached, starched, and pressed, and its face is scrubbed clean.
  • While she scrubbed him she would invariably speak to him of the importance of personal hygiene.
  • We pack the clean eggs directly in cartons and scrub the soiled eggs under running water before packing them.
scour, rub, brush, sponge, swab, clean, cleanse, wash, wipe
1.1 (scrub something away/off) Remove dirt by rubbing hard: it took ages to scrub off the muck
More example sentences
  • She scrubbed the dirt off of her body until she was satisfied.
  • She didn't much care for the idea but quickly bathed and scrubbed the dirt off of her body.
  • Dumping shampoo and conditioner on my head, I squirted some shower gel on a sponge and scrubbed the grime off my body.
1.2 [no object] (scrub up) Thoroughly clean one’s hands and arms before performing surgery: the doctor scrubbed up and donned a protective gown
More example sentences
  • She urged anyone coming into contact with the water to scrub up with soap and water.
  • Former nurses say there was a reluctance on the part of medical staff to enter the unit and all staff were made to scrub up carefully to prevent infection.
  • NHS staff are taking a leading role in a new regionwide campaign encouraging people to scrub up well.
1.3 [no object] (scrub up well) British informal (Of a person) have a smart and well-groomed appearance after making a deliberate effort: the band scrub up well to play weddings and parties
More example sentences
  • He also commented on how smart we all looked - see we do scrub up well!
  • Despite scrubbing up well for the shoot, he grunts, ‘I don't think I'll be doing James Bond any time soon.’
  • People seem to like visiting me, I'm over 30, I'm slowly falling to pieces and could do with a lot of TLC, with a bit of work I scrub up well, and I've been told I have way too many toys in the attic.
2 informal Cancel or abandon (something): the first two races had to be scrubbed because of blustery winds and rough seas
More example sentences
  • If this means the profile's scrubbed, ‘he continues, ‘that's fine by me.’
  • I just may have to scrub the whole thing and go back to version 1.
  • If a child shows an aptitude and a burning desire to play the violin, the plan for her to train for World Cup soccer may have to be scrubbed,
3Use water to remove impurities from (gas or vapour): the vapour is scrubbed by the condensate
More example sentences
  • Once the gas is extracted, it is scrubbed to remove acids and dehumidified.
  • To win, the system should be able to scrub the equivalent of at least a billion tons of the greenhouse gas a year.
  • The gas is then scrubbed with a high-boiling organic solvent which is miscible with water and to which sulfur is added.
4 Motor Racing (Of a driver) allow (a tyre) to slide or scrape across the road surface so as to reduce speed: I usually only scrub the front tyre when I get into a turn too hot
More example sentences
  • I went off from the back of the pack, scrubbed the tyre in for three laps and pulled in to ensure I had maximum grip left for my important race.
  • I ended up scrubbing the tyres in and the shaking problems I had disappeared.
4.1(Of a driver) reduce (speed) by allowing the tyres to slide or scrape across the road surface: he slammed the bike down on the cases to scrub off speed
More example sentences
  • It scrubs off speed with plenty of engine braking.
  • It seemingly took forever to scrub off speed when I stood on the brake pedal.
  • I release the brakes and drop quickly onto my left knee, letting the front tire scrub off the remaining speed.
5 [no object] (Of a rider) rub the arms and legs urgently on a horse’s neck and flanks to urge it to move faster: [with infinitive]: by now the field was spreadeagled and scrubbing to keep in touch with the hounds
More example sentences
  • Usually at Cheltenham you're scrubbing the heads off your horses trying to get them closer.
  • Now he was back-pedalling quickly and the jockey was hard at work on him, scrubbing him along frantically but getting no response.
  • But you could see me scrubbing him the whole way in the Belmont, and not going anywhere.


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1An act of scrubbing something or someone: give the floor a good scrub
More example sentences
  • Performing a surgical hand scrub before a surgical procedure is intended to reduce the number of microorganisms.
  • Study participants perform one surgical hand scrub on day one of the test week and are immediately gloved.
  • By spending less than 1 – 2 minutes to give yourself a whole-body scrub from head to toe, you can boost the skin's resistance to outside temperature change.
2A semi-abrasive cosmetic lotion applied to the face or body in order to cleanse the skin: don’t use facial scrubs if your skin is sensitive
More example sentences
  • When using an alcohol-based surgical hand scrub with persistent activity, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Other joints give you long rather torturous salt and lemon exfoliating body scrubs first and then apply the stuff.
  • And my apricot exfoliating facial scrub sits above the sink next to my Morning Fresh dishwashing detergent.
3 (scrubs) Special hygienic clothing worn by surgeons during operations: Bill emerged from the delivery room in green scrubs
More example sentences
  • He was wearing green scrubs and looked like a surgeon coming down the hall.
  • Soon, we were joined by a doctor wearing green scrubs.
  • Dull paint job, old marble floors and the staff are actually wearing cheesy looking hospital scrubs.


Late 16th century: probably from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schrobben, schrubben.

Words that rhyme with scrub

blub, bub, chub, Chubb, club, cub, drub, dub, flub, grub, hub, nub, pub, rub, shrub, slub, snub, stub, sub, tub
Definition of scrub in:
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There are 2 main definitions of scrub in English:

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scrub 2 Line breaks: scrub


1 [mass noun] Vegetation consisting mainly of brushwood or stunted forest growth: a desert plain dotted with scrub
More example sentences
  • Images of barren trees, dry scrub and leaf-scattered ground present the rural Virginia landscape in December.
  • The Kalahari is a green desert, largely of low thorn scrub and acacia trees.
  • Reestablishment of scrub vegetation on phosphate mines has been attempted with varying success.
1.1 (also scrubs) Land covered with scrub vegetation: the wind tore across scrub and heathland [as plural noun]: his courageous explorations in the scrubs
More example sentences
  • Covered with scrub, native mesquite trees and low wild grasses, the desert site slopes gently down to the south.
  • And during the negotiations, about 3,700 acres of coastal sage scrub were destroyed.
  • Volatile substances released by Salvia and other aromatic shrubs in coastal sage scrub are complex compounds.
2 [as modifier] Denoting a shrubby or small form of a plant: scrub apple trees
More example sentences
  • Invasive plants including grasses, scrub guava trees and sugar cane stretched from one end of the property to the other, and the fertility of the fragile tropical soils had long been depleted.
  • In rural southwest Georgia, Highway 137 heads out of tiny Buena Vista, past neatly kept lawns, then through patches of kudzu and stands of scrub pine.
  • They prefer grasslands, chaparral, and scrub oak areas to forage for food.
2.1North American Denoting an animal of inferior breed or physique: a scrub bull
More example sentences
  • Scrub bull hunts are conducted in conjunction with our North Queensland wild boar hunts.
  • Our goats are specially bred for milk production as well as for show, not ‘backyard’ scrub goats.
  • Before the stock law was enacted nearly every farmer had a herd of scrub sheep running ‘outside’ on mountains and hills.
3 informal An insignificant or contemptible person: you are a mean scrub
More example sentences
  • Any poor scrubs in our place must be fools not to think the match a very rare and astonishing honour, as far as the position goes.
3.1North American A sports team or player not among the best or most skilled: a former All-Star reduced to the role of scrub
More example sentences
  • He was a scrub for ten years in football at a private school because playing football was mandatory.
  • They said that he was a scrub and would never do anything that good - unfortunately he did.
  • He is not a scrub, but let's not get that hall of fame speech ready yet.
3.2 short for scrubber (sense 2).
4 [mass noun] North American An informal team game played by children in a public area: hardly anyone ever plays scrub these days [as modifier]: we were playing scrub baseball
More example sentences
  • Fact is, probably you and I would have had a great summer playing scrub in Dallas together when we were kids.
  • ‘The kids in the neighborhood would play on a vacant corner lot, choosing up sides and playing scrub,’ she told me.
  • This continued for almost a month until it warmed up and we began playing scrub.


Pronunciation: /ˈskrʌbi/
adjective (scrubbier, scrubbiest)
Example sentences
  • TV programmes and books try to persuade us that we, whoever we are, can make over scrubby lawns, and construct a little Blenheim in a rectangle of twenty by thirty feet.
  • We were flying over the desert and the bare, scrubby land was beautiful and strange when seen from above.
  • Not that there's anything particularly romantic or evocative about the landscape - a low, scrubby forest alternating with tracts of rolling parkland cleared in readiness for the agricultural season.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'stunted tree'): variant of shrub1.

Definition of scrub in:
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