verb (used with object), nabbed, nab·bing. Informal.

to arrest or capture.
to catch or seize, especially suddenly.
to snatch or steal.

Origin of nab

1675–85; earlier nap; perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Danish nappe, Norwegian, Swedish nappa to snatch
Related formsnab·ber, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for nabbing

cop, capture, apprehend, clutch, snatch, nail, arrest, take, catch, grab, detain

Examples from the Web for nabbing

Contemporary Examples of nabbing

  • Mad Men and Modern Family came out tops on TV's most glamorous night—with Glee, despite the hype, nabbing just two awards.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Newcomers Invade Emmys

    Choire Sicha

    August 30, 2010

  • In just the latest, the embattled governor is being called out for violating state ethics laws by nabbing Yankees tickets gratis.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The New Corruption Capital

    Samuel P. Jacobs

    March 3, 2010

  • In a world where enough is never enough, nabbing that last career-capping acquisition can kill you.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Merger That Ruined Lewis

    Nomi Prins

    October 1, 2009

Historical Examples of nabbing

  • This den of ours opens on the river's edge, and, two days since, his Indians came within an ace of nabbing me.

  • "Maybe da vos vaiting for a chanct to cotch us nabbing," answered the Dutch soldier.

    Marching on Niagara

    Edward Stratemeyer

  • The police are coming and theyll get you, and I can identify you, if they dont succeed in nabbing you red-handed.

  • One citation for shooting it out with a burglar and another for nabbing a past-post crook at Lefko's horse room.

    The Syndic

    C.M. Kornbluth

  • They kept guard and thought they had a sure thing of nabbing the burglars as they emerged with their spoils.

    Jerry's Reward

    Evelyn Snead Barnett

British Dictionary definitions for nabbing


verb nabs, nabbing or nabbed (tr) informal

to arrest
to catch (someone) in wrongdoing
to seize suddenly; snatch

Word Origin for nab

C17: perhaps of Scandinavian origin; compare Danish nappe, Swedish nappa to snatch. See kidnap
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 nabbing



"to catch (someone)," 1680s, probably a variant of dialectal nap "to seize, catch, lay hold of" (1670s, now surviving only in kidnap), which possibly is from Scandinavian (cf. Norwegian nappe, Swedish nappa "to catch, snatch;" Danish nappe "to pinch, pull"); reinforced by Middle English napand "grasping, greedy." Related: Nabbed; nabbing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper