verb (used with object), grabbed, grab·bing.

verb (used without object), grabbed, grab·bing.

to make a grasping or clutching motion (usually followed by at): He grabbed frantically at the life preserver.
(of brakes, a clutch, etc.) to take hold suddenly or with a jolting motion; bind.



    up for grabs, Informal. available to anyone willing to expend the energy to get it: The Republican nomination for mayor was up for grabs.

Origin of grab

1580–90; cognate with Middle Dutch, Middle Low German grabben, Swedish grabba
Related formsgrab·ba·ble, adjectiveun·grab·bing, adjective

Synonyms for grab Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for up for grabs


verb grabs, grabbing or grabbed

to seize hold of (something)
(tr) to seize illegally or unscrupulously
(tr) to arrest; catch
(intr) (of a brake or clutch in a vehicle) to grip and release intermittently causing juddering
(tr) informal to catch the attention or interest of; impress


the act or an instance of grabbing
a mechanical device for gripping objects, esp the hinged jaws of a mechanical excavator
something that is grabbed
up for grabs informal available to be bought, claimed, or won
Derived Formsgrabber, noun

Word Origin for grab

C16: probably from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch grabben; related to Swedish grabba, Sanskrit grbhnāti he seizes
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 up for grabs



1777, "thing grabbed;" 1824, "act of grabbing," from grab (v.). Up for grabs attested from 1945 in jive talk.



1580s, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German grabben "to grab," from Proto-Germanic *grab (cf. Old English græppian "to seize," Old Saxon garva, Old High German garba "sheaf," literally "that which is gathered up together"), from PIE *ghrebh- "to seize, reach" (cf. Sanskrit grbhnati "seizes," Old Persian grab- "seize" as possession or prisoner, Old Church Slavonic grabiti "to seize, rob," Lithuanian grebiu "to rake"). Sense of "to get by unscrupulous methods" reinforced by grab game, a kind of swindle, attested from 1846. Related: Grabbed; grabbing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with up for grabs

up for grabs

Available to anyone, as in Now that he's resigned, his job is up for grabs. This term alludes to something being thrown in the air for anyone to grasp or catch. [Colloquial; 1920s]


In addition to the idiom beginning with grab

  • grab bag

also see:

  • how does that grab you
  • up for grabs
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.