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[stab] /stæb/
verb (used with object), stabbed, stabbing.
to pierce or wound with or as if with a pointed weapon:
She stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork.
to thrust, plunge, or jab (a knife, pointed weapon, or the like) into something:
He stabbed the knife into the man's chest.
to penetrate sharply or painfully:
Their misery stabbed his conscience.
to make a piercing, thrusting, or pointing motion at or in: He stabbed me in the chest with his finger.
The speaker stabbed the air in anger.
verb (used without object), stabbed, stabbing.
to thrust with or as if with a knife or other pointed weapon:
to stab at an attacker.
to deliver a wound, as with a pointed weapon.
the act of stabbing.
a thrust or blow with, or as if with, a pointed weapon.
an attempt; try:
Make a stab at an answer before giving up.
a wound made by stabbing.
a sudden, brief, and usually painful, sensation: He felt a stab of pain in his foot.
A stab of pity ran through her.
a stab in the back, an act of treachery.
stab (someone) in the back, to do harm to (someone), especially to a friend or to a person who is unsuspecting or in a defenseless position.
Origin of stab
1325-75; (v.) Middle English (Scots) stabben < ?; (noun) late Middle English, akin to or derivative of the v.; compare Scots stob stub1
Related forms
restab, verb, restabbed, restabbing.
unstabbed, adjective
1. spear, penetrate, pin, transfix.

stab. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for stab
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The trick is to dodge an attack from the animal and stab him to the heart as he passes.

  • He started out into the street and the two jumped him and started to stab him to death.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • Why, if thy hateful looks could stab, I'd be a dead man forty times.

    Master Skylark John Bennett
  • And must I stab you worse than all your enemies have stabbed you?

    White Lies Charles Reade
  • "Ray has always worked well for me," Radley promptly answered, and we all knew he meant it as a second stab for Fillet.

    Tell England Ernest Raymond
British Dictionary definitions for stab


verb stabs, stabbing, stabbed
(transitive) to pierce or injure with a sharp pointed instrument
(transitive) (of a sharp pointed instrument) to pierce or wound: the knife stabbed her hand
when intr, often foll by at. to make a thrust (at); jab: he stabbed at the doorway
(transitive) to inflict with a sharp pain
stab in the back
  1. (verb) to do damage to the reputation of (a person, esp a friend) in a surreptitious way
  2. (noun) a treacherous action or remark that causes the downfall of or injury to a person
the act or an instance of stabbing
an injury or rift made by stabbing
a sudden sensation, esp an unpleasant one: a stab of pity
(informal) an attempt (esp in the phrase make a stab at)
Derived Forms
stabber, noun
Word Origin
C14: from stabbe stab wound; probably related to Middle English stob stick
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 stab

late 14c., first attested in Scottish English, apparently a dialectal variant of Scottish stob "to pierce, stab," of uncertain origin, perhaps a variant of stub (n.) "stake, nail." Figurative use, of emotions, etc., is from 1590s. Related: Stabbed; stabbing.


"wound produced by stabbing," mid-15c., from stab (v.). Meaning "a try" first recorded 1895, American English. Stab in the back "treacherous deed" is first attested 1916.


"wound produced by stabbing," mid-15c., from stab (v.). Meaning "a try" first recorded 1895, American English. Stab in the back "treacherous deed" is first attested 1916.

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



A try; crack, shot, whack: Well, I'll have a stab at it (1895+)

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 stab


In addition to the idiom beginning with stab also see: make a stab at
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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