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See also: dráb



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English drab (color of undyed cloth), from Middle French drap (cloth), from Late Latin drappus (drabcloth, kerchief) (6th century, Vita Caesaris Arelatis)[1], from Gaulish *drappo,[2] from Proto-Indo-European *drep- (to scratch, tear) (compare Old Norse trof (fringes), trefja (to rub, wear out), Lithuanian drãpanos (household linens), Serbo-Croatian drápati (to scratch, scrape), Ancient Greek δρέπω (drépō, to pluck), Avestan 𐬛𐬭𐬀𐬟𐬱𐬀(drafša, flag, banner), Sanskrit द्रापि (drāpí, mantle, gown)).[3]


drab (comparative drabber, superlative drabbest)

  1. Dull, uninteresting, particularly of colour.
    • 1768, Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, "The Mystery. Paris.", [1]
      [] the man [] was dress’d in a dark drab-colour’d coat, waistcoat, and breeches, which seem’d to have seen some years service:—they were still clean, and there was a little air of frugal propreté throughout him.
    • 1858, George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life, "Mr. Gilfil's Love Story," Chapter 2, [2]
      The coffee presently appeared, brought not as usual by the footman, in scarlet and drab, but by the old butler, in threadbare but well-brushed black []
    • 1914, Eunice Tietjens, "The Steam Shovel," lines 29-35,[3]
      Have you no longing ever to be free?
      In warm, electric days to run a-muck,
      Ranging like some mad dinosaur,
      Your fiery heart at war
      With this strange world, the city’s restless ruck,
      Where all drab things that toil, save you alone,
      Have life;
    • 1920, Carl Sandburg, "The Sins of Kalamazoo" in Smoke and Steel, New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., p. 49, [4]
      The sins of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson.
      The sins of Kalamazoo are a convict gray, a dishwater drab.
      And the people who sin the sins of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson.
      They run to drabs and grays—and some of them sing they shall be washed whiter than snow—and some: We should worry.
    • 1944, Emily Carr, The House of All Sorts, "Sounds and Silences," [5]
      Furniture is comical. It responds to humans. For some it looks its drabbest, for others it sparkles and looks, if not handsome, at any rate comfortable.
    • 2011 November 3, David Ornstein, “Macc Tel-Aviv 1 - 2 Stoke”, in BBC Sport[6]:
      In a drab first half, Ryan Shotton's drive was deflected on to a post and Jon Walters twice went close.


drab (countable and uncountable, plural drabs)

  1. A fabric, usually of thick wool or cotton, having a drab colour.
  2. The colour of this fabric; a dun, dull grey, or dull brownish yellow.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Origin uncertain. Compare Middle English drablen, drabelen (to soil; make dirty), Low German drabbeln (to soil), Old Norse drabba (to make drab; make dirty). Compare also Irish drabog, Gaelic drabag (dirty woman).


drab (plural drabs)

  1. (dated) A dirty or untidy woman; a slattern.
    • 1871–72, George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter 11
      Old provincial society had [...] its brilliant young professional dandies who ended by living up an entry with a drab and six children for their establishment [...].
    • 1956, John Creasey, Gideon's Week:
      The doss house emptied during the day; from ten o'clock until five or six in the evening, there was no one there except Mulliver, a drab who did some of the cleaning for him, and occasional visitors.
  2. (dated) A promiscuous woman, a slut; a prostitute.
    • c. 1602, William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene 1, lines 93-5 [7]
      [] they say he keeps a Trojan drab, and uses the traitor Calchas’ tent: I’ll after. Nothing but lechery! all incontinent varlets!
    • 1957, Frank Swinnerton, The Woman from Sicily:
      Ineffable sarcasm underlined the word 'bride', suggesting that Mrs Mudge must be a drab who had married for respectability.
  3. A box used in a saltworks for holding the salt when taken out of the boiling pans.


drab (third-person singular simple present drabs, present participle drabbing, simple past and past participle drabbed)

  1. (obsolete) To consort with prostitutes.
    • c. 1602, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene 1, [8]
      Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
      Drabbing. You may go so far.
    • 1907, Justin Huntly McCarthy, Needles and pins, page 82:
      He did not relish the apparition of that Katherine, for when it appeared it seemed to bring with it a brother shadow that wore ragged clothes and tangled hair and foul linen, that drank from any flagon and drabbed with any doxy, that slept in tavern angles through hours of drunkenness, a thing whose fingers pillaged, filched, and pilfered when and where they could, a creature that once he saw whenever he stared into a mirror.
    • 1923, George Bernard Shaw, The Strand Magazine, Volume 65, p. 457,
      [] to ask us to subject our souls to its ruinous glamour, to worship it, deify it, and imply that it alone makes our life worth living, is nothing but folly gone mad erotically – a thing compared to which Falstaff's unbeglamoured drinking and drabbing is respectable and rightminded.


  1. ^ Jean-Paul Savignac, Dictionnaire français-gaulois, s.v. "drap" (Paris: la Différence, 2004), 123.
  2. ^ Robert K. Barnhart, ed., Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, s.v. "drab" (NY: Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd., 2003).
  3. ^ Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise : une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental, s.v. "drappo" (Paris: Errance, 2001).




Uncertain, but probably related to Dutch draf (dregs) (from Proto-Germanic *drabaz). Compare Low German drabbe (silt).

First attested as Dutch drabbe (sediment) in 1599.


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drab f, n (uncountable)

  1. sediment, dregs, filth

Old Polish[edit]


From Proto-Slavic *drabь.


drab f

  1. ladder



Borrowed from Czech dráb.



drab m pers

  1. (colloquial, derogatory) large, imposing man




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drab m

  1. medicine


  • Russian: драп (drap, marijuana)