See more synonyms for bob on
verb (used with object), bobbed, bob·bing.
  1. to move quickly down and up: to bob the head.
  2. to indicate with such a motion: to bob a greeting.
verb (used without object), bobbed, bob·bing.
  1. to make a jerky motion with the head or body.
  2. to move about with jerky, usually rising and falling motions: The ball bobbed upon the waves.
Verb Phrases
  1. bob up, to emerge or appear, especially unexpectedly: A familiar face bobbed up in the crowd.

Origin of bob

First recorded in 1400–50, bob is from the late Middle English word bobben. See bob2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for bob up


  1. Bob's your uncle slang everything is or will turn out all right

Word Origin for Bob

C19: perhaps from pet form of Robert


verb bobs, bobbing or bobbed
  1. to move or cause to move up and down repeatedly, as while floating in water
  2. to move or cause to move with a short abrupt movement, as of the head
  3. to make (a bow or curtsy)the little girl bobbed before the visitor
  4. (intr usually foll by up) to appear or emerge suddenly
  5. (intr; foll by under, below, etc) to disappear suddenly, as beneath a surface
  6. (intr usually foll by for) to attempt to get hold (of a floating or hanging object, esp an apple) in the teeth as a game
  1. a short abrupt movement, as of the head
  2. a quick curtsy or bow
  3. bell-ringing a particular set of changes
  4. angling
    1. short for bobfloat
    2. the topmost fly on a cast of three, often fished bobbing at the surface
    3. this position on a wet-fly cast

Word Origin for bob

C14: of uncertain origin


  1. a hairstyle for women and children in which the hair is cut short evenly all round the head
  2. a dangling or hanging object, such as the weight on a pendulum or on a plumb line
  3. a polishing disc on a rotating spindle. It is usually made of felt, leather, etc, impregnated with an abrasive material
  4. short for bob skate, bobsleigh
  5. a runner or pair of runners on a bobsled
  6. angling a small knot of worms, maggots, etc, used as bait
  7. a very short line of verse at the end of a stanza or preceding a rhyming quatrain (the wheel) at the end of a stanza
  8. a refrain or burden with such a short line or lines
  9. a docked tail, esp of a horse
  10. British dialect a hanging cluster, as of flowers or ribbons
verb bobs, bobbing or bobbed
  1. (tr) to cut (the hair) in a bob
  2. (tr) to cut short (something, esp the tail of an animal); dock or crop
  3. (intr) to ride on a bobsled

Word Origin for bob

C14 bobbe bunch of flowers, perhaps of Celtic origin


verb bobs, bobbing or bobbed
  1. to tap or cause to tap or knock lightly (against)
  1. a light knock; tap

Word Origin for bob

C13 bobben to rap, beat; see bop ²


noun plural bob
  1. British (formerly) an informal word for a shilling (def. 1)

Word Origin for bob

C19: of unknown origin
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

Word Origin and History for bob up



"move with a short, jerking motion," late 14c., probably connected to Middle English bobben "to strike, beat" (late 13c.), perhaps of echoic origin. Another early sense was "to make a fool of, cheat" (early 14c.). Related: Bobbed; bobbing. The sense in bobbing for apples (or cherries) recorded by 1799.



"short hair," 1680s, attested 1570s in sense of "a horse's tail cut short," from earlier bobbe "cluster" (as of leaves), mid-14c., a northern word, perhaps of Celtic origin (cf. Irish baban "tassel, cluster," Gaelic babag). Used over the years in various senses connected by the notion of "round, hanging mass," e.g. "weight at the end of a line" (1650s). The hair sense was revived with a shift in women's styles early 20c. (verb 1918, noun 1920). Related words include bobby pin, bobby sox, bobsled, bobcat.



"act of bobbing," 1540s, from bob (v.1). As a slang word for "shilling" it is attested from 1789, but the signification is unknown.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bob up

bob up

Appear suddenly or unexpectedly. For example, I didn't know anyone in the group until Harry bobbed up. This term uses the verb bob in the sense of “to bounce,” a usage dating from Chaucer's day. [Late 1800s]

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