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[skruhb] /skrʌb/
verb (used with object), scrubbed, scrubbing.
to rub hard with a brush, cloth, etc., or against a rough surface in washing.
to subject to friction; rub.
to remove (dirt, grime, etc.) from something by hard rubbing while washing.
Chemistry. to remove (impurities or undesirable components) from a gas by chemical means, as sulfur dioxide from smokestack gas or carbon dioxide from exhaled air in life-support packs.
to cancel or postpone (a space flight or part of a mission):
Ground control scrubbed the spacewalk.
Slang. to do away with; cancel:
Scrub your vacation plans—there's work to do!
verb (used without object), scrubbed, scrubbing.
to cleanse something by hard rubbing.
to cleanse one's hands and arms as a preparation to performing or assisting in surgery (often followed by up).
an act or instance of scrubbing.
a canceled or postponed space flight, launching, scheduled part of a space mission, etc.
something, as a cosmetic preparation, used for scrubbing.
Origin of scrub1
1300-50; Middle English scrobben (noun) < Middle Dutch schrobben
Related forms
scrubbable, adjective
nonscrubbable, adjective


[skruhb-uhp] /ˈskrʌbˌʌp/
the act of washing or bathing thoroughly, especially the aseptic washing by doctors, nurses, etc., before a surgical operation.
First recorded in 1915-20 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for scrub up
Historical Examples
  • But wait till I can scrub up and swallow a mouthful of supper, Sis.

    The Hallowell Partnership Katharine Holland Brown
  • I'll get some sand and scrub up the spots before I go to school.

    Anne Of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • We mustnt even waste the time for me to scrub up, and Im taking no chances at all with any non-surgical conditions.


    George Allan England
  • Then, as fortune would have it, the housekeeper sent them in to scrub up the floor behind the clerk's desk.

    Jennie Gerhardt Theodore Dreiser
  • It takes her a week to scrub up the kitchen, and then one end of it is so dirty she has to begin again.

    Cy Whittaker's Place Joseph C. Lincoln
  • So he climbed through the scrub up the mountain-side till he came out upon a grassy slope, two hundred feet above the camp.

    Dusty Star Olaf Baker
British Dictionary definitions for scrub up


verb scrubs, scrubbing, scrubbed
to rub (a surface) hard, with or as if with a brush, soap, and water, in order to clean it
to remove (dirt), esp by rubbing with a brush and water
(intransitive) foll by up. (of a surgeon) to wash the hands and arms thoroughly before operating
(transitive) to purify (a vapour or gas) by removing impurities
(transitive) (informal) to delete or cancel
(intransitive) (horse racing, slang) (of jockeys) to urge a horse forwards by moving the arms and whip rhythmically forwards and backwards alongside its neck
the act of or an instance of scrubbing
See also scrub round
Word Origin
C14: from Middle Low German schrubben, or Middle Dutch schrobben


  1. vegetation consisting of stunted trees, bushes, and other plants growing in an arid area
  2. (as modifier): scrub vegetation
an area of arid land covered with such vegetation
  1. an animal of inferior breeding or condition
  2. (as modifier): a scrub bull
a small or insignificant person
anything stunted or inferior
(sport, US & Canadian) a player not in the first team
(Austral, informal) the scrub, a remote place, esp one where contact with people can be avoided
small, stunted, or inferior
(sport, US & Canadian)
  1. (of a player) not in the first team
  2. (of a team) composed of such players
  3. (of a contest) between scratch or incomplete teams
Word Origin
C16: variation of shrub1
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 scrub up



"rub hard," early 15c., earlier shrubben (c.1300), perhaps from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German schrubben "to scrub," or from an unrecorded Old English cognate, or from a Scandinavian source (cf. Danish skrubbe "to scrub"), probably ultimately from the Proto-Germanic root of shrub, used as a cleaning tool (cf. the evolution of broom, brush (n.1)).

Meaning "to cancel" is attested from 1828 (popularized during World War II with reference to flights), probably from notion of "to rub out, erase" an entry on a listing. Related: Scrubbed; scrubbing.



late 14c., "low, stunted tree," variant of shrobbe (see shrub), perhaps influenced by a Scandinavian word (cf. Danish dialectal skrub "a stunted tree, brushwood"). Collective sense "brush, shrubs" is attested from 1805. As an adjective from 1710. Scrub oak recorded from 1766.

Transferred sense of "mean, insignificant fellow" is from 1580s; U.S. sports meaning "athlete not on the varsity team" is recorded from 1892, probably from this, but cf. scrub "hard-working servant, drudge" (1709), perhaps from influence of scrub (v.).



"act of scrubbing," 1620s, from scrub (v.). Meaning "thing that is used in scrubbing" is from 1680s.

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

scrub 1


To cancel or eliminate: They were forced to scrub the whole plan

[1828+; popularized by military use during World War II]

scrub 2


  1. A contemptible person; bum: Ed is a scrub (1589+)
  2. An athlete who is not on the first or varsity team; a lowly substitute (1892+)

[ultimately fr scrub, ''shrub, a low, stunted tree''; the quoted 1990s teenager use is an interesting survival or perhaps a revival based on the second sense]

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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Idioms and Phrases with scrub up

scrub up

Thoroughly wash one's hands and forearms, as before performing surgery. For example, The residents had to scrub up in case they were called on to assist with the operation. [ c. 1900 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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