[rib-uh n]
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  1. a woven strip or band of fine material, as silk or rayon, varying in width and finished off at the edges, used for ornament, tying, etc.
  2. material in such strips.
  3. anything resembling or suggesting a ribbon or woven band.
  4. a band of inked material used in a typewriter, adding machine, etc., that supplies ink for printing the figure on the striking typeface onto the paper beneath.
  5. a strip of material, as satin or rayon, being or representing a medal or similar decoration, especially a military one: an overseas ribbon.
  6. ribbons,
    1. torn or ragged strips; shreds: clothes torn to ribbons.
    2. reins for driving.
  7. a long, thin flexible band of metal, as for a spring, a band saw, or a tapeline.
  8. Also riband, ribband, Also called ledger, ledger board, ribbon strip. Carpentry. a thin horizontal piece let into studding to support the ends of joists.
  9. Architecture. came2.
  10. Also riband, ribband. Nautical. a distinctive narrow band or stripe painted along the exterior of a hull.
  11. Shipbuilding. ribband1(def 1).
verb (used with object)
  1. to adorn with ribbon.
  2. to mark with something suggesting ribbon.
  3. to separate into ribbonlike strips.
verb (used without object)
  1. to form in ribbonlike strips.

Origin of ribbon

1520–30; variant of Middle English riban(d) < Old French, variant of r (e)uban, perhaps < Germanic. See band2
Related formsrib·bon·like, rib·bon·y, adjectiveun·rib·boned, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for ribbon


  1. a narrow strip of fine material, esp silk, used for trimming, tying, etc
  2. something resembling a ribbon; a long stripa ribbon of land
  3. a long thin flexible band of metal used as a graduated measure, spring, etc
  4. a long narrow strip of ink-impregnated cloth for making the impression of type characters on paper in a typewriter or similar device
  5. (plural) ragged strips or shreds (esp in the phrase torn to ribbons)
  6. a small strip of coloured cloth signifying membership of an order or award of military decoration, prize, or other distinction
  7. a small, usually looped, strip of coloured cloth worn to signify support for a charity or causea red AIDS ribbon
verb (tr)
  1. to adorn with a ribbon or ribbons
  2. to mark with narrow ribbon-like marks
  3. to reduce to ribbons; tear into strips
Derived Formsribbon-like or ribbony, adjective

Word Origin for ribbon

C14 ryban, from Old French riban, apparently of Germanic origin; probably related to ring 1, band ²
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 ribbon

early 14c., ribane, from Old French riban "a ribbon," variant of ruban (13c.), of unknown origin, possibly from a Germanic compound whose second element is related to band (n.1); cf. Middle Dutch ringhband "necklace." Modern spelling is from mid-16c. Originally a stripe in a material. Custom of colored ribbon loops worn on lapels to declare support for some group perceived as suffering or oppressed began in 1991 with AIDS red ribbons.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper