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[nab] /næb/
verb (used with object), nabbed, nabbing. Informal.
to arrest or capture.
to catch or seize, especially suddenly.
to snatch or steal.
Origin of nab
1675-85; earlier nap; perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Danish nappe, Norwegian, Swedish nappa to snatch
Related forms
nabber, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for nabbing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This den of ours opens on the river's edge, and, two days since, his Indians came within an ace of nabbing me.

    The Master of Appleby

    Francis Lynde
  • "Maybe da vos vaiting for a chanct to cotch us nabbing," answered the Dutch soldier.

    Marching on Niagara Edward Stratemeyer
  • The police are coming and theyll get you, and I can identify you, if they dont succeed in nabbing you red-handed.

  • One citation for shooting it out with a burglar and another for nabbing a past-post crook at Lefko's horse room.

    The Syndic C.M. Kornbluth
  • They kept guard and thought they had a sure thing of nabbing the burglars as they emerged with their spoils.

    Jerry's Reward Evelyn Snead Barnett
  • Like our common red-head, this bird has the habit of soaring out into the air and nabbing insects on the wing.

    Birds of the Rockies

    Leander Sylvester Keyser
  • But if you could put us in the way of nabbing that pair of escaped rogues, you'd be doing a great thing.

British Dictionary definitions for nabbing


verb (transitive) (informal) nabs, nabbing, nabbed
to arrest
to catch (someone) in wrongdoing
to seize suddenly; snatch
Word Origin
C17: perhaps of Scandinavian origin; compare Danish nappe, Swedish nappa to snatch. See kidnap
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 nabbing



"to catch (someone)," 1680s, probably a variant of dialectal nap "to seize, catch, lay hold of" (1670s, now surviving only in kidnap), which possibly is from Scandinavian (cf. Norwegian nappe, Swedish nappa "to catch, snatch;" Danish nappe "to pinch, pull"); reinforced by Middle English napand "grasping, greedy." Related: Nabbed; nabbing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for nabbing



(also nabs) A police officer or detective (1950s+ Street gang)


To catch; seize; arrest; collar: The officers nabbed him around the corner (1686+)

[fr dialect nap as in kidnap, perhaps related to Swedish nappa, ''catch,'' or Danish nappe, ''pull''; probably related to nip; the noun sense is recorded in British criminal slang by 1813]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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