General English


  • noun a perennial plant (Rheum rhaponticum), of which the leaf stalks are cooked and eaten as dessert. It has a high oxalate content and the leaves are toxic.


  • A deep-rooted perennial plant, Rheum x cultorum, which produces thick pink to red stems at ground level each topped with a large green leaf. The stems are stewed with sugar and used as a dessert, in pies, crumbles, fools, etc. and for jam making. Early rhubarb is forced by excluding light and is the most tender. The leaves are poisonous.


  • noun meaningless babble, nonsense, empty talk. The theatrical term for background mumbling or hubbub has been adopted by London working-class users as a contemptuous or dismissive term for rubbish of all sorts.


  • A word traditionally repeated by groups of actors to create an effectof background conversation or noisy hubbub. It was apparently chosen for itssonorous qualities. The term is now applied to any meaningless muttering byactors in crowd scenes, especially when this seems exaggerated or artificial.


  • noun a plant with long red leaf stalks which are cooked and eaten as dessert

Origin & History of “rhubarb”

The Greeks had two words for ‘rhubarb’: rhḗon, which was borrowed from Persian rēwend, and which evolved into Latin rheum, now the plant’s scientific name; and rha, which is said to have come from Rha, an ancient name of the river Volga, in allusion to the fact that rhubarb was once grown on its banks (rhubarb is native to China, and was once imported to Europe via Russia). In medieval Latin rhubarb became known as rha barbarum ‘barbarian rhubarb, foreign rhubarb’, again with reference to the plant’s exotic origins; and in due course association with Latin rheum altered this to rheubarbarum. It passed into English via vulgar Latin *rheubarbum and Old French reubarbe.