Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

rub - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     rub pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participlerubbing
past tenserubbed
past participlerubbed
  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to press and move your hands or an object over a surface
    rub something off something:

    Rub the skins of the peppers off when they have softened.

    1. a.
      to move your hand backwards and forwards across a part of someone’s body while pressing firmly, especially because that part of the body hurts

      Scott gently rubbed her back until the pain went away.

    2. b.
      to move something such as a cloth backwards and forwards across a surface to clean it, dry it, or make it smooth
      rub something off something:

      He rubbed the dirt off the number plate with his sleeve.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to press and move one object against another or against a surface
    rub something against something:

    The cat rubbed its cheek against my leg.

    rub something together:

    Rub your hands together, it will help you to stay warm.

    1. a.
      to press and move against an object or a surface

      The cow rubbed against the fence.

    2. b.
      [intransitive] British to hurt or damage something by continuously pressing and moving against it

      Cindy’s new shoes were rubbing and giving her blisters.

  3. 3
    [transitive] to spread a liquid or substance onto the surface of something
    rub something on something:

    She rubbed some tanning oil on his back.

    rub something with something:

    Rub the chicken with garlic before putting it in the oven.

    Synonyms and related words
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play