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Etymology 1[edit]

Middle English, meaning "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 [script needed] ‎(drafša, flag, banner), Sanskrit द्रापि ‎(drāpí, mantle, gown)).[3]


drab ‎(comparative drabber, superlative drabbest)

  1. Dull, uninteresting, particularly of colour.
    • 2011 November 3, David Ornstein, “Macc Tel-Aviv 1 - 2 Stoke”[1], BBC Sport:
      In a drab first half, Ryan Shotton's drive was deflected on to a post and Jon Walters twice went close.


drab ‎(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 or dull brownish yellow.
  3. A wooden box, used in saltworks for holding the salt when taken out of the boiling pans.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Origin uncertain; probably compare 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.
    • 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.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  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.
    • 1602, William Shakespeare, “act 2 scene 1 line 26”, in Hamlet:
      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.
    • George Bernard Shaw
      [] 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).




drab f, n ‎(uncountable)

  1. sediment, dregs, filth



From Czech dráb



drab m pers

  1. (colloquial, pejorative) large, imposing man




drab m

  1. medicine