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See also: DAB, dåb, dąb, -dab, and 𒁳


Performing the dab dance move.
Dabbing hash oil.


  • IPA(key): /dæb/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æb

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), possibly German tappen (to fumble, grope).

The noun is from Middle English dabbe (a strike, blow), from the verb. Related to tap. Compare also drub, dub.

African-American sense of “playful box” perhaps influenced by dap (fistbump).


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.
    • (Can we date this quote by S. Sharp and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      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.
    • (Can we date this quote by Sir T. More and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      to dab him in the neck
  4. (slang) To apply hash oil to a heated surface for the purpose of efficient combustion.
  5. (dance, intransitive) To perform the dab dance move, by moving both arms to one side of the body parallel with your head.


Hash oil, aka dab.

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.
    Coordinate terms: dap, fistbump, high five
    • 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.
    Synonym: blob
    a dab of glue
    1. (slang) A small amount of hash oil.
  4. (chiefly in the plural, dated, Britain) Fingerprint.
  5. (dance) A hip hop dance move in which the dancer simultaneously drops the head while raising an arm, briefly resting their face in the elbow, as if sneezing into their elbow.
Related terms[edit]


dab (not comparable)

  1. With a dab, or sudden contact.

See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Perhaps corrupted from adept.


dab (plural dabs)

  1. One skilful or proficient; an expert; an adept.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:skilled person
    • (Can we date this quote by Goldsmith and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      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.

Etymology 4[edit]

Back slang for bad.


dab (comparative more dab, superlative most dab)

  1. (obsolete, costermongers) Bad.
    Synonym: trosseno
    Antonyms: doog, doogheno
    • 1851, Mayhew, Henry, “Habits and Amusements of Costermongers”, in London Labour and the London Poor[1], volume 1, page 11:
      Business topics are discussed in a most peculiar style. One man takes the pipe from his mouth and says, "Bill made a doogheno hit this morning." "Jem," says another, to a man just entering, "you'll stand a top o' reeb?" "On," answers Jem, "I've had a trosseno tol, and have been doing dab."
    • 2012, Quinn, Anthony, The Streets, →ISBN, page 33:
      One afternoon, arriving at his stall later than usual, I said, almost unknowingly, 'A doogheno or a dabheno?' Jo, who had often chaffed me for my awkward mimicking of coster language, didn't even look up from peeling his apple. 'Dab,' he said, with a little shake of his head.

Further reading[edit]





dab m (uncountable)

  1. (dance) The dab (hip-hop dance move).

White Hmong[edit]




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

Derived terms[edit]


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