[ roo-bahrb ]
/ ˈru bɑrb /
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any of several plants belonging to the genus Rheum, of the buckwheat family, as R. officinale, having a medicinal rhizome, and R. rhabarbarum, having edible leafstalks.
the rhizome of any medicinal species of this plant, forming a combined cathartic and astringent.
the edible, fleshy leafstalks of R. rhabarbarum, used in making pies, preserves, etc.
Slang. a quarrel or squabble.


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Origin of rhubarb

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English rubarb, reubarb, from Old French r(e)ubarbe, from Medieval Latin reubarbarum, from Greek rhéon bárbaron “foreign rhubarb”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a plant with edible leafstalks that are known for their use in making pies and preserves.

This kind of rhubarb has a tart, tangy, sour flavor that’s often paired with sweet ingredients, such as in strawberry rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb is also used as a slang term to refer to a fight or argument. This slang term is especially associated with baseball, as in The manager came out to argue the umpire’s call and it wasn’t long before it turned into a rhubarb with pointing and shouting. 

In the context of theater, the word rhubarb is used as a term for the noise made by actors to simulate conversation. For whatever reason, this is sometimes done by randomly repeating the word rhubarb. Rhubarb can also be used as a verb meaning to simulate conversation in this way.

Example: Rhubarb has a very short growing season, so I like to use it in as many recipes as I can when it’s available.

Where does rhubarb come from?

The first records of the word rhubarb come from around 1400. It ultimately comes from the Greek rhéon bárbaron, meaning “foreign rhubarb.” Because rhubarb is native to Asia, it may have been considered foreign to the ancient Greeks. The words barbarian, barbaric, and barbarous come from related roots based on the idea of foreignness.

As a plant, rhubarb is a member of the buckwheat family and the genus Rheum. There are several varieties. The kind that’s used to make pies has edible stalks. Another variety has a stem that is used for medicinal purposes. The leaves and roots of the rhubarb plant are poisonous and should not be eaten.

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What are some synonyms for rhubarb?

What are some words that share a root or word element with rhubarb

What are some words that often get used in discussing rhubarb?


How is rhubarb used in real life?

Rhubarb is probably best known as an ingredient in rhubarb pie and strawberry rhubarb pie.



Try using rhubarb!

True or False?

The edible stalks of rhubarb have a sweet flavor.

How to use rhubarb in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rhubarb

/ (ˈruːbɑːb) /

any of several temperate and subtropical plants of the polygonaceous genus Rheum, esp R. rhaponticum (common garden rhubarb), which has long green and red acid-tasting edible leafstalks, usually eaten sweetened and cooked
the leafstalks of this plant
a related plant, Rheum officinale, of central Asia, having a bitter-tasting underground stem that can be dried and used medicinally as a laxative or astringent
US and Canadian slang a heated discussion or quarrel
the noise made by actors to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random
to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random

Word Origin for rhubarb

C14: from Old French reubarbe, from Medieval Latin reubarbum, probably a variant of rha barbarum barbarian rhubarb, from rha rhubarb (from Greek, perhaps from Rha ancient name of the Volga) + Latin barbarus barbarian
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