General English


  • noun a lotion used to rub on the skin
  • verb to move something, especially the hands, backwards and forwards over a surface


  • verb to damage something by repeated movement of one surface on another


  • noun a massaging of part of the body

Origin & History of “rub”

The antecedents of rub are unclear. It may have been borrowed from Low German rubben, but since it is not known where that came from, it does not get us much further. The derivative rubber (16th c.) was originally used simply for ‘something for rubbing with’. But since the substance obtained from rubber trees was early on used for pencil erasers, it became known from the end of the 18th century as rubber (or in full India-rubber, from its place of origin). It is not clear whether rubber ‘set of games’ (16th c.), which originated as a bowls term, is the same word.