Nearby words

  1. ru,
  2. ru 486,
  3. ruana,
  4. ruanda,
  5. ruanda-urundi,
  6. rub al khali,
  7. rub along,
  8. rub down,
  9. rub elbows with,
  10. rub in


Origin of rub

1300–50; 1860–65 for def 18b; Middle English rubben (v.); cognate with Frisian rubben, Danish rubbe, Swedish rubba

Related formsun·rubbed, adjectivewell-rubbed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for rub down

rub down

verb (adverb)

to dry or clean (a horse, athlete, oneself, etc) vigorously, esp after exercise
to make or become smooth by rubbing
(tr) to prepare (a surface) for painting by rubbing it with sandpaper

noun rubdown

the act of rubbing down
the Hong Kong term for dressing-down


verb rubs, rubbing or rubbed

to apply pressure and friction to (something) with a circular or backward and forward motion
to move (something) with pressure along, over, or against (a surface)
to chafe or fray
(tr) to bring into a certain condition by rubbingrub it clean
(tr) to spread with pressure, esp in order to cause to be absorbedhe rubbed ointment into his back
(tr) to mix (fat) into flour with the fingertips, as in making pastry
(foll by off, out, away, etc) to remove or be removed by rubbing
bowls (of a bowl) to be slowed or deflected by an uneven patch on the green
(tr often foll by together) to move against each other with pressure and friction (esp in the phrases rub one's hands, often a sign of glee, anticipation, or satisfaction, and rub noses, a greeting among Inuit people)
rub someone's nose in it informal to remind someone unkindly of his failing or error
rub up the wrong way to arouse anger (in); annoy
rub shoulders with or rub elbows with informal to mix with socially or associate with


the act of rubbing
the rub an obstacle or difficulty (esp in the phrase there's the rub)
something that hurts the feelings or annoys; rebuke
bowls an uneven patch in the green
any roughness or unevenness of surface
  1. golfan incident of accidental interference with the ball
  2. informala piece of good or bad luck

Word Origin for rub

C15: perhaps from Low German rubben, of obscure origin

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 rub down
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for rub down




The application of friction and pressure.
Such a procedure applied to the body.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with rub down

rub down

Briskly rub the body, as in a massage. For example, The trainer rubs down marathon runners, or That horse needs rubbing down. This expression was first used (and still is) for rubbing away dust and sweat from a horse. [Late 1600s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with rub

  • rub down
  • rub elbows with
  • rub in
  • rub off on
  • rub one's hands
  • rub out
  • rub someone's nose in it
  • rub the wrong way
  • rub up on

also see:

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