American English

Definition of rub verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they rub
    he / she / it rubs
    past simple rubbed
    -ing form rubbing
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  1. 1[transitive, intransitive] to move your hand, or something such as a cloth, backward and forward over a surface while pressing firmly rub something She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. He rubbed a hand wearily over his eyes. rub something/yourself with something Rub the surface with sandpaper before painting. I rubbed a clear patch on the window with my fingers. rub something/yourself against something The cat rubbed itself against my legs. rub at something I rubbed at the stain on the cloth. rub against something Animals had been rubbing against the trees. rub something/yourself + adj. Rub the surface smooth. She rubbed her hair dry quickly with a towel.
  2. 2[transitive, intransitive] to press two surfaces against each other and move them backward and forward; to be pressed together and move in this way rub something (together) She rubbed her hands in delight. In some cultures, people traditionally greet each other by rubbing noses. rub (together) It sounded like two pieces of wood rubbing together.
  3. 3[intransitive, transitive] (of a surface) to move backward and forward many times against something while pressing it, especially causing pain or damage The back of my shoe is rubbing. rub on/against something The wheel is rubbing on the fender. rub something (+ adj.) The horse's neck was rubbed raw (= until the skin came off) where the rope had been.
  4. 4[transitive] rub something + adv./prep. to spread a liquid or other substance over a surface while pressing firmly She rubbed the lotion into her skin. Rub salt over the fish before cooking.
  5. Idioms
    not have two nickles, brain cells, etc. to rub together (informal)
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    to have no money; to be very stupid, etc.
    rub somebody's nose in it (informal)
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    to keep reminding someone in an unkind way of their past mistakes
    rub salt into the wound, rub salt into somebody's wounds
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    to make a difficult experience even more difficult for someone
    rub shoulders with somebody (also rub elbows with somebody)
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    to meet and spend time with a famous person, socially or as part of your job He's rubbing shoulders with stars all the time.
    rub somebody the wrong way (informal)
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    to make someone annoyed or angry, often without intending to, by doing or saying something that offends them She tends to rub people the wrong way.
    Phrasal Verbsrub somebody/oneself/somethingdownrub somethingdownrub it inrub off (on/onto somebody)rub somethingoff (something)rub somebodyout
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: rub