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[drab] /dræb/
adjective, drabber, drabbest.
dull; cheerless; lacking in spirit, brightness, etc.
having the color drab.
dull gray; dull brownish or yellowish gray.
any of several fabrics of this color, especially of thick wool or cotton.
Origin of drab1
1535-45; < Middle French drap < Late Latin drappus piece of cloth
Related forms
drably, adverb
drabness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for drabness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The rays of the setting sun brought out the drabness of her.

    Dust Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius
  • So began a merry interlude in the drabness of the Handsomebody regime.

    Explorers of the Dawn Mazo de la Roche
  • There was time to see the drabness of his boarding place, so he changed it.

    Stubble George Looms
  • Neither dress nor ceremony had yet been curtailed by the drabness of Democracy.

    Seaport in Virginia Gay Montague Moore
  • I want to sit on its benches again in spite of their treacherous bleakness, in spite of the drabness.

    My Wonderful Visit Charlie Chaplin
  • Michael enjoyed Mr. Neech's eccentricities after the drabness of the Special.

    Sinister Street, vol. 1 Compton Mackenzie
  • In a place such as this was, anyone would crave relief from its drabness.

  • She was tired of the drabness and clutter of crowded foregrounds.

    The Blood Red Dawn Charles Caldwell Dobie
  • There was a weary sort of patience, a disillusioned concession to the drabness of married life.

    Sisters Kathleen Norris
British Dictionary definitions for drabness


adjective drabber, drabbest
dull; dingy; shabby
cheerless; dreary: a drab evening
of the colour drab
a light olive-brown colour
a fabric of a dull grey or brown colour
Derived Forms
drably, adverb
drabness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old French drap cloth, from Late Latin drappus, perhaps of Celtic origin


a slatternly woman
a whore
verb drabs, drabbing, drabbed
(intransitive) to consort with prostitutes
Word Origin
C16: of Celtic origin; compare Scottish Gaelic drabag
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for drabness



1680s, "color of natural, undyed cloth," from Middle French drap (see drape (n.)). Figurative sense is c.1880. Apparently not related to earlier word meaning "a dirty, untidy woman" (1510s), "a prostitute" (1520s), which seems to be connected with Irish drabog, Gaelic drabag "dirty woman," and perhaps with Low German drabbe "dirt." Ultimately perhaps from PIE *dher- "to make muddy." Meaning "small, petty debt" (the sense in dribs and drabs) is 1828, of uncertain connection to the other senses.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with drabness


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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