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See also: DAB, dåb, and dąb


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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English dabben (to strike), cognate with Middle Dutch dabben (to pinch, knead, fumble, dabble) (Dutch dabben ((of a horse) to stamp with the forelegs)), Dutch deppen (to dab), German tappen (to fumble, grope). The noun is from Middle English dabbe (a strike, blow), from the verb. Related to tap.


dab (third-person singular simple present dabs, present participle dabbing, simple past and past participle dabbed)

  1. (transitive) To press lightly in a repetitive motion with a soft object without rubbing.
    I dabbed my face with a towel.
    • S. Sharp
      A sore should [] be wiped [] only by dabbing it over with fine lint.
  2. (transitive) To apply a substance in this way.
    He dabbed moisturizing liquid on his face.
  3. To strike by a thrust; to hit with a sudden blow or thrust.
    • Sir T. More
      to dab him in the neck
  4. To apply hash oil to a heated surface for the purpose of efficient combustion.
    Dabbing hash oil.


dab (plural dabs)

  1. A soft tap or blow; a blow or peck from a bird's beak; an aimed blow.
    • 1865, Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend:
      I promise you nothing,' said the dolls' dressmaker, dabbing two dabs at him with her needle, as if she put out both his eyes.
    • 1917, Robert Hichens, In the Wilderness:
      Then the minute feet made feeble dabs, or stabs, at the atmosphere; the tiny fists doubled themselves and wandered to and fro as if in search of the enemy.
  2. (African American Vernacular) A soft, playful box given in greeting or approval.
    • 2006, Greta X, Angela Pearson, Whipsdom, page 75:
      She gave a few more dabs to his buttocks. “There. By the time you've made love to me those weals will have dried up.”
    • 2010, Adrianne Byrd, Body Heat, page 177:
      The men gave each other dabs and another bear hug.
    • 2010, De'nesha Diamond, Hustlin' Divas, page 220:
      Python snickers while he gives Rufus dabs. “Do you,nigga. Do you.” That shit just makes Rufus's lips stretch wider. “You see this, Peaches? This is like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval right here.”
      page 197: I step closer to Profit and draw in a deep, steadying breath while the brothers exchange dabs. “What's up, fam? I see you finally made it.”
  3. A small amount, a blob of some soft or wet substance.
  4. (chiefly in the plural, dated, British) Fingerprint.
  5. A small amount of hash oil.
Coordinate terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]


dab (not comparable)

  1. With a dab, or sudden contact.

Etymology 2[edit]

Perhaps corrupted from adept.


dab (plural dabs)

  1. One skilful or proficient; an expert; an adept.
    • Goldsmith
      One excels at a plan or the title page, another works away at the body of the book, and the third is a dab at an index.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Origin unknown.


dab (plural dabs)

  1. A small flatfish of the family Pleuronectidae, especially Limanda limanda; a flounder.
  2. (US) A sand dab, a small flatfish of genus Citharichthys.


  • Oxford English Dictionary (1989)





  1. rafsi of damba.

White Hmong[edit]



  1. (evil) spirit, considered responsible for epileptic attacks among other things


  • Ernest E. Heimbach, White Hmong - English Dictionary (1979, SEAP Publications)