verb (used with object), tabbed, tab·bing.

to furnish or ornament with a tab or tabs.
to name or designate.

verb (used without object), tabbed, tab·bing.

to operate the tab function on a typewriter or computer.


    keep tabs/tab on, Informal. to keep an account of; check on; observe: The police kept tabs on the suspect's activities.

Origin of tab

1600–10; most senses of unknown origin;in def 7 short for tabulator; in def 10 short for tableau; in defs 4, 15 short for table Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for tabbing




a small flap of material, esp one on a garment for decoration or for fastening to a button
any similar flap, such as a piece of paper attached to a file for identification
a small auxiliary aerofoil on the trailing edge of a rudder, aileron, or elevator, etc, to assist in the control of the aircraft in flightSee also trim tab
British military the insignia on the collar of a staff officer
mainly US and Canadian a bill, esp one for a meal or drinks
Scot and Northern English dialect a cigarette
keep tabs on informal to keep a watchful eye on

verb tabs, tabbing or tabbed

(tr) to supply (files, clothing, etc) with a tab or tabs

Word Origin for tab

C17: of unknown origin




short for tabulator, tablet
slang a portion of a drug, esp LSD or ecstasy


abbreviation for

typhoid-paratyphoid A and B (vaccine)
Australian and NZ Totalizator Agency Board
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 tabbing



"small flap," c.1600, possibly a dialectal word, of uncertain origin. Often interchangeable with tag (n.1). Cf. also Middle English tab "strap or string" (mid-15c.), Norwegian dialectal tave "piece of cloth, rag."



"account, bill, check," 1888, American English colloquial, probably a shortened form of tabulation or of tablet in the sense of "a sheet for writing on." Figurative phrase keep a tab on is recorded from 1890.



1961, shortened form of tablet (especially one of sugar containing LSD). As an abbreviation of tabloid (newspaper) it is 1990s slang. As a short form of tabulator key of a typewriter (later computer) it is recorded from 1916.



"to designate, label," 1924, perhaps an alteration of tag (v.2). Related: Tabbed; tabbing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tabbing


see keep tabs on.

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