[ dab ]
/ dæb /
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verb (used with object), dabbed, dab·bing.
verb (used without object), dabbed, dab·bing.
to strike lightly; make a dab; pat: She dabbed at the stain on her dress.
to consume cannabis by inhaling the vapor of heated cannabis extract oil. She dabs for a more intense high.
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Origin of dab

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English verb dabben “to strike, hit,” of uncertain origin; compare Old Icelandic dabba “to strike, tap,” Norwegian dabbe “to shuffle along, walk slowly,” Middle Dutch dabben “to pinch, knead,” German tappen “to feel along, grope”

Other definitions for dab (2 of 4)

[ dab ]
/ dæb /

any of several flatfishes of the genus Limanda, especially the European flatfish, L. limanda.

Origin of dab

First recorded in 1570–80; perhaps special use of dab1

Other definitions for dab (3 of 4)

[ dab ]
/ dæb /

Also called dab hand . a person skilled in something; an expert.
an excellent or extraordinary person or thing.

Origin of dab

First recorded in 1685–95; of uncertain origin

Other definitions for dab (4 of 4)


Dictionary of American Biography.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What else does dab mean?

In slang, dab can be a highly concentrated marijuana extract, a type of hip-hop dance, or touching the ground with your foot while you ride a bicycle.

Doing any of these actions is called dabbing, and yes, you could feasibly do all three at once—not that we recommend it.

Where does dab come from?

Dab, in its regular use, is a noun or verb referring to light taps or strokes, but it has taken on a number of slang senses.

In the marijuana community, dabbing refers to a more intense form of consuming marijuana. It involves a person smoking hash oil burned with butane, resulting in nearly straight THC—and a very intense high. These cannabis extracts are referred to as dabs.

Though the ability to create dabs goes back for decades, dabbing only started catching on in the 2010s, at which point it got the slang name dabbing, based on how one dabs an amount of concentrate to smoke it. There is a serious concern that dabbing is far more dangerous than conventional pot smoking.

Dabbing also became a type of hip-hop dance in the 2010s. It originated in Atlanta, Georgia. The dance move involves extending one arm up and out while the other arm, parallel, covers at the elbow pit.

Dabbing was popularized by members of the Quality Control label, particularly Migos, whose 2015 song (later updated to “Look at My Dab”) brought the dance to a wider audience. Credit also goes to Skippa Da Flippa’s 2014 “How Fast.”

Dabbing went viral after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dabbed in the end zone in 2015. The dance went on to be performed by everyone from actor Betty White to kids in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

As for how the dance got dubbed dabbing, performer Bow Wow claims that the moves are supposed to replicate covering one’s mouth from the coughing fits that happen after one ingests a hash dab.

Then there’s the cyclist’s dabbing, which refers to the action of quickly putting your foot on the ground while you ride a bicycle, motorcycle, or mountain bike for balance. This version originates at least by the 1980s but tends to be cycling jargon.

How is dab used in real life?

People may dab to dance or to celebrate an accomplishment or win. Because hip-hop dabbing became so widespread in the mid-2010s, it’s sometimes mentioned as another example of appropriating Black culture. As a result in part, dabbing is often called out as something that is not cool, though it used to be.

Hash dabbing, on the other hand, is still highly sought after by its fans, and has become more popular as marijuana has become more legalized. If there’s one thing anyone needs to know about this version of dabbing, though, it’s that it is intense.

If you hear bicyclists talk about dabbing, all they mean is putting their feet on the ground while they ride. It is based on the idea of dab, or to lightly tap. It usually happens when someone is about to fall off their bike as a way of catching themselves. It may incur a penalty in cycling-based competitions.

More examples of dab:

“Experts are coming forward, however, to urge caution when creating and using dabs, as there are some dangers that come along with it.”
—Gina M. Florio, Bustle, August 2016


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use dab in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for dab (1 of 4)

/ (dæb) /

verb dabs, dabbing or dabbed
to touch lightly and quickly
(tr) to daub with short tapping strokesto dab the wall with paint
(tr) to apply (paint, cream, etc) with short tapping strokes
a small amount, esp of something soft or moista dab of ink
a small light stroke or tap, as with the hand
(often plural) mainly British a slang word for fingerprint

Word Origin for dab

C14: of imitative origin

British Dictionary definitions for dab (2 of 4)

/ (dæb) /

a small common European brown flatfish, Limanda limanda, covered with rough toothed scales: family Pleuronectidae: a food fish
(often plural) any of various other small flatfish, esp floundersCompare sand dab
Also called: patiki a sand flounder, Rhombosolea plebia, common around New Zealand's South Island

Word Origin for dab

C15: from Anglo-French dabbe, of uncertain origin

British Dictionary definitions for dab (3 of 4)

/ (dæb) /

British informal See dab hand

Word Origin for dab

C17: perhaps from dab 1 (vb)

British Dictionary definitions for dab (4 of 4)


abbreviation for
digital audio broadcasting
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