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verb (used with object), stabbed, stab·bing.
  1. to pierce or wound with or as if with a pointed weapon: She stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork.
  2. to thrust, plunge, or jab (a knife, pointed weapon, or the like) into something: He stabbed the knife into the man's chest.
  3. to penetrate sharply or painfully: Their misery stabbed his conscience.
  4. to make a piercing, thrusting, or pointing motion at or in: He stabbed me in the chest with his finger. The speaker stabbed the air in anger.
verb (used without object), stabbed, stab·bing.
  1. to thrust with or as if with a knife or other pointed weapon: to stab at an attacker.
  2. to deliver a wound, as with a pointed weapon.
  1. the act of stabbing.
  2. a thrust or blow with, or as if with, a pointed weapon.
  3. an attempt; try: Make a stab at an answer before giving up.
  4. a wound made by stabbing.
  5. a sudden, brief, and usually painful, sensation: He felt a stab of pain in his foot. A stab of pity ran through her.
  1. a stab in the back, an act of treachery.
  2. stab (someone) in the back, to do harm to (someone), especially to a friend or to a person who is unsuspecting or in a defenseless position.

Origin of stab

1325–75; (v.) Middle English (Scots) stabben < ?; (noun) late Middle English, akin to or derivative of the v.; compare Scots stob stub1
Related formsre·stab, verb, re·stabbed, re·stab·bing.un·stabbed, adjective

Synonyms for stab

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stab. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stab

Contemporary Examples of stab

Historical Examples of stab

  • "Not at all," persisted he, accepting as conversation what she meant as a stab.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • It was cut and parry and stab as quick as eye could see or hand act.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Her poor old joints seemed to stab her, but she fought off the pain angrily.

  • She could scratch, kick, and bite—and stab too; but for stabbing she wanted a knife.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • "Maybe some of our men at New Orleans have laid us open to such a stab," he said.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

British Dictionary definitions for stab


verb stabs, stabbing or stabbed
  1. (tr) to pierce or injure with a sharp pointed instrument
  2. (tr) (of a sharp pointed instrument) to pierce or woundthe knife stabbed her hand
  3. (when intr , often foll by at) to make a thrust (at); jabhe stabbed at the doorway
  4. (tr) to inflict with a sharp pain
  5. stab in the back
    1. (verb)to do damage to the reputation of (a person, esp a friend) in a surreptitious way
    2. (noun)a treacherous action or remark that causes the downfall of or injury to a person
  1. the act or an instance of stabbing
  2. an injury or rift made by stabbing
  3. a sudden sensation, esp an unpleasant onea stab of pity
  4. informal an attempt (esp in the phrase make a stab at)
Derived Formsstabber, noun

Word Origin for stab

C14: from stabbe stab wound; probably related to Middle English stob stick
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 stab

late 14c., first attested in Scottish English, apparently a dialectal variant of Scottish stob "to pierce, stab," of uncertain origin, perhaps a variant of stub (n.) "stake, nail." Figurative use, of emotions, etc., is from 1590s. Related: Stabbed; stabbing.


"wound produced by stabbing," mid-15c., from stab (v.). Meaning "a try" first recorded 1895, American English. Stab in the back "treacherous deed" is first attested 1916.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with stab


In addition to the idiom beginning with stab

  • stab in the back, a

also see:

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