drab

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See also: dráb

English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Wool fabric that is drab in colour (sense 2)

Etymology 1[edit]

Probably from Middle French and Old French drap (cloth),[1] either:

The English word is cognate with Ancient Greek δρέπω (drépō, to pluck), Avestan 𐬛𐬭𐬀𐬟𐬱𐬀(drafša, banner, flag), Lithuanian drãpanos (household linens), Old Norse trefja (to rub, wear out), trof (fringes), Sanskrit द्रापि (drāpi, mantle, gown), Serbo-Croatian drápati (to scratch, scrape)).[5]

Noun[edit]

drab (countable and uncountable, plural drabs) (also attributively)

  1. A fabric, usually of thick cotton or wool, having a dull brownish yellow, dull grey, or dun colour.
    Synonym: drabcloth
    • 1786, “Letter X”, in Examinator’s Letters, or, A Mirror for British Monopolists and Irish Financiers, Dublin: Printed, and sold by the booksellers, OCLC 225275990, pages 41–42:
      John Hanſell, of Bridport, in Dorſetſhire, ſail-cloth manufacturer, ſtates in his evidence, that the ſale of coarſe woollen cloath was not then a twentieth part of what it had been for the common people formerly, owing to their ſubſtituting Ruſſia drabs and ravenſduck as garments in place of the coarſe woollens.
  2. The colour of this fabric.
    drab colour:  
    • 1794 October 31, John Dalton, “Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours: With Observations”, in Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, volume V, part 1, Manchester: Printed by George Nicholson for Cadell and Davies, published 1798, OCLC 1039112623, page 36:
      Most of the colours called drabs appear to me the same by day-light and candle-light.
    • 1838 February 17, Mrs. Howitt, “The Friends’ Family”, in William and Robert Chambers, editors, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, volume VII, number 316, Edinburgh: Published, [], by W[illiam] S[omerville] Orr and Co., [], published 1839, OCLC 4167154, page 25, column 2:
      [T]he carpet is a Brussels, of rather a small pattern, in various shades of greens and drabs.
    • 1854, Thomas Love, “To Dye Silk Drabs in the Lavender Vat Different Ways”, in The Art of Cleaning, Dyeing, Scouring, and Finishing, on the Most Approved English and French Methods. [], London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, [], OCLC 156146025, part I (The Art of Cleaning and Dyeing Silk), page 78:
      Let your light drabs be next. Do not put anything in your liquor after your greys, except a pint of this ebony liquor; stir it up well, and handle in your silks for light drab for twenty minutes, and they are done; [...] The next drab you dye in the vat is a dark stone drab.
    • 1868, Louisa M[ay] Alcott, “The Laurence Boy”, in Little Women: Or, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, part first, Boston, Mass.: Roberts Brothers, published 1869, OCLC 30743985, pages 42–43:
      They looked very well in their simple suits, Meg in silvery drab, with a blue velvet snood, lace frills, and the pearl pin; Jo in maroon, with a stiff, gentlemanly linen collar, and a white chrysanthemum or two for her only ornament.
    • 1920, Carl Sandburg, “The Sins of Kalamazoo”, in Smoke and Steel, New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, OCLC 1117522934, page 49:
      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.
  3. Often in the plural form drabs: apparel, especially trousers, made from this fabric.
    • 1771, [Henry Mackenzie], chapter XIX, in The Man of Feeling, 2nd corrected edition, London: Printed for T[homas] Cadell, [], OCLC 1103022800, page 45:
      He wore a pretty large wig, which had once been white, but was now of a browniſh yellow; his coat was one of thoſe modeſt-coloured drabs which mock the injuries of duſt and dirt; [...]
    • 1860 September, J. Crawford Wilson, “Brutus”, in Frank Leslie’s Monthly, volume VII, number 3, New York, N.Y.: [Frank Leslie] Publication Office, 19, City Hall Square, OCLC 18534370, page 237, column 1:
      [T]o please her he promised to lay aside the universal drabs for the wedding day and to case his extremities in modern black cloth continuations, with an express stipulation that the drabs should again be in active service on the subsequent morning.
    • 1907 October, Jane Armstrong, “Woman Architect who Helped Build the Fairmont Hotel”, in The Architect and Engineer of California, volume X, number 3, San Francisco; Los Angeles, Calif.: Architect & Engineer Co., OCLC 228680284, page 70:
      I knew that Julia Morgan was a Beaux Arts graduate, and through my mind there trooped a bizarre procession of girls who have studied one thing or another in Paris. They usually come home dressed in a color scheme of the impressionistic school, with their talent merely a by-product of a wonderful new set of mannerisms and a novel and fuzzy way of doing their hair. Yet here was a young woman dressed in drab and severely hair pinned.
  4. (by extension) A dull or uninteresting appearance or situation.
Translations[edit]
See also[edit]

Adjective[edit]

drab (comparative drabber, superlative drabbest)

  1. Of the colour of some types of drabcloth: dull brownish yellow or dun.
  2. (by extension) Particularly of colour: dull, uninteresting.
Derived terms[edit]
Translations[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

The origin of the noun is uncertain; compare Middle English drabelen, drablen, draplen (to soil; make dirty; to drag on the ground or through mud),[6] and Low German drabbe (dirt, mud), drabbeln (to soil), and Old Norse drabba (to make drab; make dirty), the latter three ultimately from Proto-Germanic *drepaną (to hit, strike), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰreb- (to crush, grind; to kill). The word is also likely to be related to Dutch drab (dregs, sediment), Irish drabog, Scottish Gaelic drabag (dirty woman; slattern).[7]

The verb is derived from the noun.[8]

Noun[edit]

drab (plural drabs)

  1. (dated) A dirty or untidy woman; a slattern.
    • 1593, Gabriel Harvey, Pierces Supererogation: Or A New Prayse of the Old Asse, London: Imprinted by Iohn Wolfe, OCLC 165778203; republished as John Payne Collier, editor, Pierces Supererogation: Or A New Prayse of the Old Asse. A Preparative to Certaine Larger Discourses, Intituled Nashes S. Fame (Miscellaneous Tracts. Temp. Eliz. & Jac. I; no. 8), [London: [s.n.], 1870], OCLC 23963073, page 150:
      [C]ertainly thou deſireſt but thy right, that canſt read a rhetorique, or logique lecture to Hecuba in the art of raving, and inſtruct Tiſiphone herſelfe in her owne gnaſhing language. Other he, or ſhe, drabs of the curſteſt or vengeableſt rankes, are but dipped or dyed in the art; not ſuch a belldam in the whole kingdome of frogges, as thy croking, and moſt clamorous ſelfe.
    • 1607, W. S. [attributed to Thomas Middleton or William Shakespeare (doubtful)], The Pvritaine. Or The VViddovv of Watling-streete. [], imprinted at London: By G[eorge] Eld, OCLC 81461068, Act I:
      [O]ld Lad of War; thou that were wont to be as hot as a turn-ſpit, as nimble as a fencer, & as lowzy as a ſchoole-maiſter; now thou art put to ſilence like a Secretarie? [...] who are your centinells in peace and ſtand ready charg'd to giue warning; with hems, hums, & pockey-coffs; only your Chambers are licenc'ſt to play vpon you, and Drabs enow to giue fire to 'em.
    • 1660, James Hovvell [i.e., James Howell], “Diharebion Cymraeg, VVedu ei Cysiethu yn Saisoneg = British, or Old Cambrian Proverbs, and Cymraecan Adages, Never Englished, (and Divers Never Published) before. []”, in Lexicon Tetraglotton, an English–French–Italian–Spanish Dictionary: [], Printed by J[ohn] G[rismond] for Samuel Thomson [], OCLC 223156151, page 20:
      As ſtiff as a drabs diſtaff.
    • 1871, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], chapter XI, in Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, volume I, Edinburgh; London: William Blackwood and Sons, OCLC 948783829, book I (Miss Brooke), page 164:
      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, J. J. Marric [pseudonym; John Creasey], “Father and Son”, in Gideon’s Week, London: Hodder & Stoughton, OCLC 1377060, page 154; republished in Gideon at Work: Three Complete Novels: Gideon’s Day, Gideon’s Week, Gideon’s Night, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, publishers, 1957, OCLC 1303091, page 250:
      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.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:promiscuous woman, Thesaurus:prostitute
    • 1580, Thomas Tusser, “74. A Digression.”, in Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie: [], imprinted at London: By Henrie Denham [beeing the assigne of William Seres] [], OCLC 837741850; republished as W[illiam] Payne and Sidney J[ohn Hervon] Herrtage, editors, Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie. [], London: Published for the English Dialect Society by Trübner & Co., [], 1878, OCLC 7391867535, stanza 4, page 166:
      Take heed to false harlots, and more, ye wot what. / If noise ye heare, / Looke all be cleare: / Least drabs doe noie thee, / And theeues destroie thee.
    • c. 1602, William Shakespeare, The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. [] (First Quarto), London: Imprinted by G[eorge] Eld for R[ichard] Bonian and H[enry] Walley, [], published 1609, OCLC 951696502, [Act V, scene i], lines 93–95:
      [T]hey ſay hee keepes a Troyan drab, and yſes the traytor Calcas tent, Ile after … —Nothing but letchery all incontinent varlots.
    • 1611 December 27 (first performance), Io[hn] Cooke, Greenes Tu Quoque, or, The Cittie Gallant. [][2], printed at London: [By Nicholas Okes] for Iohn Trundle, published 1614, OCLC 606495627:
      Experience ſhewes, his Purſe ſhall ſoone grow light, / Whom Dice waſtes in the day, Drabs in the night: / Let all auoyde falſe Strumpets, Dice, and Drinke; / For hee that leaps in Mudde, ſhall quickly ſinke.
    • 1735, Alexander Pope, “[Satires of Dr. John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s.] The Second Satire of Dr. John Donne.”, in The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope, volume II, London: Printed by J. Wright, for Lawton Gilliver [], OCLC 43265629, lines 63–64, page 49:
      Curs'd be the Wretch! ſo venal and ſo vain; / Paltry and proud, as drabs in Drury-lane.
    • a. 1775, Oliver Goldsmith, “A Description of an Author’s Bed-chamber”, in Poems and Plays. [], new corrected edition, London: Printed for Messrs. Price [et al.], published 1785, OCLC 1016221269, page 10:
      Where the Red Lion ſtaring o'er the way, / Invites each paſſing ſtranger that can pay; / Where Calvert’s butt, and Parſon’s black champaign, / Regale the drabs and bloods of Drury-lane; [...]
    • 1957, Frank Swinnerton, The Woman from Sicily, London: Hutchinson, OCLC 2630480, page 194:
      Ineffable sarcasm underlined the word 'bride', suggesting that Mrs Mudge must be a drab who had married for respectability.
Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

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

  1. (intransitive, obsolete) To consort with prostitutes; to whore.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Probably related to drop (small mass of liquid).

Noun[edit]

drab (plural drabs)

  1. A small amount, especially of money.
    • a. 1746, Jonathan Swift; Thomas Sheridan, compiler, “VII. Another, Written upon a Window where there was No Writing before.”, in The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, D.D., Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. [] In Nineteen Volumes, volume VII, new corrected and revised edition, London: Printed [by Nichols and Son] for J[oseph] Johnson [et al.], published 1801, OCLC 6772664, page 361:
      Thanks to my stars, I once can see / A window here from scribbling free! / Here no conceited coxcombs pass, / To scratch their paltry drabs on glass; / Nor party-fool is calling names, / Or dealing crowns to George and James.
    • 1823, William Cobbett, “Brewing Beer”, in Cottage Economy: [], new edition, London: Printed for J. M. Cobbett, [], OCLC 1015431964, paragraph 30:
      The tea drinking has done a great deal in bringing this nation into the state [of] misery in which it now is; and the tea drinking, which is carried on by "dribs" and "drabs;" by pence and farthings going out at a time; this miserable practice has been gradually introduced by the growing weight of the taxes on Malt and on Hops, and by the everlasting penury amongst the labourers, occasioned by the paper-money.
    • 2009 April, Michael Z. Williamson, chapter 4, in Contact with Chaos, Riverdale, N.Y.: Baen Publishing Enterprises, →ISBN:
      He could play good guy and give them a few drabs of info to sweeten things.
    • 2015, Robert Levy, The Glittering World[3], New York, N.Y.: Gallery Books, →ISBN:
      He reached for another candy bar and hungrily devoured it, as fetid drabs of water fell on him from the ceiling.
    • 2018, Lewis A. Haeflinger, “In My Dreams”, in Life in the World Wind, New York, N.Y.: Page Publishing, →ISBN:
      I was itching to shoot up the developing fields of barley growing before my eyes. If my aim had any effect, Germany would be short a few drabs of ale.
    • 2018, Patrick Moran, Wine Country Cannibals, Glen Ellen, Calif.: Sweet Pea & Company, →ISBN, page 85:
      His tone, which contained more than a few drabs of sarcasm, was a notch or two shy of disrespectful, and his words, though sharp, were themselves circumspect.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 4[edit]

Origin unknown.

Noun[edit]

drab (plural drabs)

  1. A box used in a saltworks for holding the salt when taken out of the boiling pans.
    • 1748, William Brownrigg, “Of the Use of Salt as a Condiment or Pickle”, in The Art of Making Common Salt, as Now Practised in Most Parts of the World; with Several Improvements Proposed in that Art, for the Use of the British Dominions, London: Printed, and sold by C. Davis, []; A[ndrew] Millar, []; and R[obert] Dodsley, [], OCLC 753419711, part II (The Art of Preparing White Salt: Appendix):
      Thoſe therefore, who are moſt exact in pickling beef for exportation, [...] take their carcaſſes as ſoon as cold, and cut them into proper pieces; and after rubbing each piece carefully with good white ſalt, lay them on heaps in a cool cellar, in a drab with a ſhelving bottom, where they remain for four or five days, 'till the blood hath drained out of the larger veſſels.
    • 1765, Temple Henry Croker; Thomas Williams; Samuel Clark, “SALT”, in The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. In which the Whole Circle of Human Learning is Explained. [], volume II, London: Printed for the authors, and sold by J. Wilson & J. Fell, [], OCLC 642390223:
      When the ſalt is carried into the ſtore-houſe, it is put into drabs, which are partitions, like ſtalls for horſes, lined at three ſides, and the bottom with boards, and having a ſliding-board on the foreſide to draw up on occaſion. The bottoms are made ſhelving, being higheſt at the back, and gradually inclining forwards; by this means the brine, remaining among the ſalt, eaſily ſeparates and runs from it, and the ſalt in three or four days becomes ſufficiently dry; [...]
    • 1819, Abraham Rees, “SALT”, in The Cyclopædia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature. [...] In Thirty-nine Volumes, volume XXXI, London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown [et al.], OCLC 44125067:
      In both caſes they let the ſalt remain in the pan till the whole is finiſhed; then they rake it out with wooden rakes, and after it has drained a-while in wooden drabs, it is fit for uſe. The mother-brine, of which there always remains a large quantity in the pan after the ſtrong ſalt is made, as alſo the drainings of the drabs where the ſalt is put, is reſerved to be boiled up into table-ſalt; [...]
    • 1857 August, W[illia]m C. Dennis, “Salt—Its Uses and Manufacture—Salt Meats. An Inquiry into the Defects of Common Salt in General Use in the United States for Curing Provisions, and on the Subject of Careless Packing and Management of Meats, etc, with Some Hints as to a Remedy”, in J[ames] D[unwoody] B[rownson] De Bow, editor, De Bow’s Review and Industrial Resources, Statistics, etc.: [], volume III (New Series; volume XXIII overall), New Orleans, La.; Washington, D.C.: [J. D. B. De Bow], OCLC 9332366, page 135:
      The Liverpool salt is made from the impure article that is found in the mines of Cheshire, which is transported in vast quantities down the River Mersey, and is dissolved in seawater on the left bank at extensive manufactories opposite to Liverpool. This impure pickle is drawn from the tanks, in which it is dissolved, into large shallow pans, and by a rapid process of boiling it is crystalized—drawn from the pans—the salt placed in drabs or baskets to drain, ready for another charge within 24 hours, except on Sundays; the charge in the pans is allowed 48 hours to crystalize and be drawn.
Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ drab, n.2, adj., and n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1897; “drab1, adj. and n.” in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Walter W[illiam] Skeat (1910), “DRAB (2)”, in An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, new (4th) revised and enlarged edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: At the Clarendon Press, published 1963, OCLC 713911278, page 181, column 1.
  3. ^ See, for example, the Vita Caesaris Arelatis (6th century): see Jean-Paul Savignac (2004), “drap”, in Dictionnaire français-gaulois, Paris: Editions la Différence, →ISBN, page 123.
  4. ^ Robert K. Barnhart, editor (2003), “drab”, in Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, Edinburgh: Chambers, →ISBN.
  5. ^ Xavier Delamarre (2001), “drappo”, in Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise : une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental, Paris: Errance, →ISBN.
  6. ^ drabelen, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  7. ^ drab, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1897; “drab2, n.” in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ drab, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1897.

Further reading[edit]

Anagrams[edit]


Danish[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Old Norse dráp (killing), from Old Norse drepa (to hit; to kill), from Proto-Germanic *drepaną, from Proto-Indo-European *dhrebh-. Compare Icelandic dráp, Swedish dråp

Pronunciation[edit]

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Noun[edit]

drab n (singular definite drabet, plural indefinite drab)

  1. (crime) homicide

Declension[edit]

Related terms[edit]

References[edit]


Dutch[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

drab f or n (uncountable, diminutive drabje n)

  1. sediment, dregs
  2. goop, filth, mucus

Old Polish[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Proto-Slavic *drabь.

Noun[edit]

drab f

  1. ladder

Polish[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Borrowed from Czech dráb.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

drab m pers

  1. (colloquial, derogatory) large, imposing man

Declension[edit]


Romani[edit]

Etymology[edit]

(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)

Noun[edit]

drab m

  1. medicine

Descendants[edit]

  • Russian: драп (drap, marijuana)