adjective, drab·ber, drab·best.

dull; cheerless; lacking in spirit, brightness, etc.
having the color drab.


dull gray; dull brownish or yellowish gray.
any of several fabrics of this color, especially of thick wool or cotton.

Origin of drab

1535–45; < Middle French drap < Late Latin drappus piece of cloth
Related formsdrab·ly, adverbdrab·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for drably

Historical Examples of drably

  • They went through drab halls and into drab rooms where drab occupants greeted them drably, and Jane ached with the ugliness of it.

    Jane Journeys On

    Ruth Comfort Mitchell

  • To-day it is, next to St. John's Wood, the most drably respectable quarter of the town.

    Nights in London

    Thomas Burke

  • The crowd lining the opposite side of the street stood in solid ranks, drably clad, eyes following the procession, mouths working.

    It Could Be Anything

    John Keith Laumer

British Dictionary definitions for drably



adjective drabber or drabbest

dull; dingy; shabby
cheerless; drearya drab evening
of the colour drab


a light olive-brown colour
a fabric of a dull grey or brown colour
Derived Formsdrably, adverbdrabness, noun

Word Origin for drab

C16: from Old French drap cloth, from Late Latin drappus, perhaps of Celtic origin




a slatternly woman
a whore

verb drabs, drabbing or drabbed

(intr) to consort with prostitutes

Word Origin for drab

C16: of Celtic origin; compare Scottish Gaelic drabag
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 drably



1680s, "color of natural, undyed cloth," from Middle French drap (see drape (n.)). Figurative sense is c.1880. Apparently not related to earlier word meaning "a dirty, untidy woman" (1510s), "a prostitute" (1520s), which seems to be connected with Irish drabog, Gaelic drabag "dirty woman," and perhaps with Low German drabbe "dirt." Ultimately perhaps from PIE *dher- "to make muddy." Meaning "small, petty debt" (the sense in dribs and drabs) is 1828, of uncertain connection to the other senses.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with drably


see dribs and drabs.

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