Definition of rhubarb in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈruːbɑːb/


[mass noun]
1The thick reddish or green leaf stalks of a cultivated plant of the dock family, which are eaten as a fruit after cooking: [as modifier]: rhubarb pie
More example sentences
  • Don't, whatever you do, and I'm being one hundred per cent serious here, mix quadruple whiskies, cheeseburgers and re-heated rhubarb pie.
  • There would be rhubarb pie and buttermilk, flags flying and youngsters scampering, a parade, a pageant, and fireworks to light up the night sky.
  • Tom surveyed the table, eyes settling on rhubarb pie.
2The large-leaved Eurasian plant which produces rhubarb.
  • Rheum rhaponticum (or rhabarbarum) , family Polygonaceae.
Example sentences
  • Perennials, such as artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb are also sold in bare-root form.
  • As soon as the soil can be worked, plant bare-root asparagus, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, and rhubarb.
  • Unfolded flower buds of rhubarb are cooked in the same ways as elderberry flowers.
2.1Used in names of other plants of the same genus as rhubarb, several of which are used medicinally, e.g. Chinese rhubarb.
Example sentences
  • Its common name is prickly rhubarb and it does indeed look like rhubarb gone ballistic.
  • Other common names include pestwurz, blatterdock, bog rhubarb, and butter-dock.
3British informal The noise made by a group of actors to give the impression of indistinct background conversation, especially by the random repetition of the word ‘rhubarb’.
Example sentences
  • Suddenly stuck for words to say, we started saying mumble mumble mumble and rah rah rah and rhubarb rhubarb to each other, and being extra-animated in our facial expressions and gestures.
3.1Nonsense: it was all rhubarb, about me, about her daughter, about art
4 [count noun] North American informal A heated dispute: rhubarbs often broke out among these less than professional players
More example sentences
  • After all, Martin reasoned, such retaliation is a commonplace of baseball, with brushback rhubarbs happening almost weekly every season.
  • Still, it was just a run-of-the-mill rhubarb, barely worth comment, which is true of most such arguments between arbiters and managers or players.
  • An intense rhubarb developed which lasted 34 minutes.


Late Middle English (denoting the rootstock of other plants of this genus used medicinally): from Old French reubarbe, from a shortening of medieval Latin rheubarbarum, alteration (by association with rheum 'rhubarb') of rhabarbarum 'foreign rhubarb', from Greek rha (also meaning 'rhubarb') + barbaros 'foreign'.

  • English speakers have been eating rhubarb since medieval times. It came originally from China and Tibet, and the name reflects its exotic origins, going back to Greek rhabarbarum, the second part of which comes from barbaros ‘foreign’ ( see barbarian). It was originally a medicinal plant and the variety used as part of a meal only appears in 1650. Actors who wanted to give the impression of indistinct background conversation on stage traditionally achieved this by repeating ‘rhubarb, rhubarb’, leading to the word becoming a verb in the mid 20th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: rhu|barb

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