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

Related Words for stab

twinge, jab, whack, prick, injure, wound, punch, hurt, stick, blow, gash, incision, piercing, pang, rent, puncture, ache, thrust, jag, essay

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
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  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)
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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.

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"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.

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