Definition of rhubarb in English:



mass noun
  • 1The thick reddish or green leaf stalks of a cultivated plant of the dock family, which are eaten as a fruit after cooking.

    as modifier ‘rhubarb pie’
    • ‘Newly listed at Morrisons, it is rich, spicy and jam-packed with over-ripe berry fruit, rhubarb, coffee and a little mint.’
    • ‘The light deprivation leads to a sweeter rhubarb than the summer variety and it has become the connoisseurs' choice for sweet and savoury dishes.’
    • ‘We then moved on to a rhubarb and ginger crumble.’
    • ‘Neil felt he was on to a winner with his rhubarb pie and custard, praising the pastry and the flavour of the fruit.’
    • ‘Having inspected a chill cabinet and spotting cherry and rhubarb slice, curd tart and apple and cinnamon tart I opted for the latter.’
    • ‘There would be rhubarb pie and buttermilk, flags flying and youngsters scampering, a parade, a pageant, and fireworks to light up the night sky.’
    • ‘In the middle of this foody conversation, someone mentioned rhubarb jam and I said it was very difficult to get these days.’
    • ‘Don't, whatever you do, and I'm being one hundred per cent serious here, mix quadruple whiskies, cheeseburgers and re-heated rhubarb pie.’
    • ‘I closed my eyes, Dolly snuggled up against my legs, and off I drifted, to dream of potatoes and good rhubarb pie.’
    • ‘From my limited experience, rhubarbs didn't seem to make extraordinarily delicious desserts, but since I live in place where I can at least find them in a local supermarket, so why not try?’
    • ‘For dessert we shared a crème brûlée and a rhubarb and ginger crumble with ice cream.’
    • ‘Adult baking and preserve classes feature as strongly as ever and will give cooks the opportunity to present their finest brown and white bread, carrot cake and apple and rhubarb tarts.’
    • ‘A year later he was awarded prizes for his peas, grapes, rhubarb and apples.’
    • ‘For most of us, that first rhubarb pie of the season is second to none.’
    • ‘Now I like deli food, but I am still dedicated to traditional roasts and puddings such as trifle and rhubarb pies.’
    • ‘Tom surveyed the table, eyes settling on rhubarb pie.’
    • ‘A weekly newsletter describes the day the cow got out or offers a recipe for rhubarb pie.’
    • ‘At last, we decided to retreat indoors for a bedtime dessert, a fresh pie made with rhubarb from the garden.’
    • ‘I love his Aussie take on food - particularly the fish, or putting roast duck together with rosti and a rhubarb and red port sauce.’
    • ‘I think you ought to cut back on the fruitcake, perhaps toss back a tasty rhubarb and turnip smoothie.’
  • 2The large-leaved Eurasian plant which produces rhubarb.

    Rheum rhaponticum or 'rhabarbarum', family Polygonaceae

    • ‘In cold-winter climates, now is a good time to set out cane berries, fruit and nut trees, grapes, rhubarb, roses, and strawberries.’
    • ‘The potassium and calcium salts of oxalic acid are found naturally in cabbage, spinach, and rhubarb leaves, and are also found in the bark of some species of eucalyptus trees.’
    • ‘Medicinal rhubarbs, as a purgative, are among the most important drug plants of all time.’
    • ‘But they did grow carrots, lettuce, peas and rhubarb.’
    • ‘In England, rhubarb became known, at first in a purely medicinal context, in the 16th century.’
    • ‘This also applies to some purgative herbs such as rhubarb and senna leaf.’
    • ‘Perennials, such as artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb are also sold in bare-root form.’
    • ‘The leaves of our giant rhubarb have been shown at school, used as fans in hot weather, draped over climbing frames and used to camouflage dens.’
    • ‘Artichokes, rhubarb and potatoes also grow well here.’
    • ‘Laxative herbs such as cascara bark, rhubarb and senna are used to clear excess Fire.’
    • ‘Any day now we'll be fondling spring carrots and even the first outdoor rhubarb and radishes.’
    • ‘As soon as the soil can be worked, plant bare-root asparagus, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, and rhubarb.’
    • ‘To the rear of Old Hall is a large walled garden that has lawns and a variety of plants and shrubs, as well as strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, plum and apple trees.’
    • ‘The sunny rear garden at 376 Clontarf Road includes a patio area and a long lawn with mature apple trees, rhubarb plants and blackberry bushes.’
    • ‘In summer, it will be overflowing with pink rhubarb, broad beans, sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, radishes, red Batavian lettuce and herbs.’
    • ‘For anyone wanting to add asparagus or rhubarb plants to the garden, these should also be planted in early spring as soon as they become available.’
    • ‘Set out roots of asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb in well-tilled soil.’
    • ‘The house is looking a little the worse for the weather, but still retains its splendour, with beautiful gardens, including an old jacaranda tree and a broad bed of agapanthus and wild rhubarb.’
    • ‘Unfolded flower buds of rhubarb are cooked in the same ways as elderberry flowers.’
    • ‘In medieval times, rhubarb was used only for medicinal purposes in Europe and few lay people even knew what the plant looked like.’
    1. 2.1 Used in names of other plants of the same genus as rhubarb, several of which are used medicinally, e.g. Chinese rhubarb.
      • ‘Its common name is prickly rhubarb and it does indeed look like rhubarb gone ballistic.’
      • ‘Other common names include pestwurz, blatterdock, bog rhubarb, and butter-dock.’
  • 3British informal The noise made by a group of actors to give the impression of indistinct background conversation, especially by the random repetition of the word ‘rhubarb’.

    • ‘Suddenly stuck for words to say, we started saying mumble mumble mumble and rah rah rah and rhubarb rhubarb to each other, and being extra-animated in our facial expressions and gestures.’
    1. 3.1 Nonsense.
      ‘it was all rhubarb, about me, about her daughter, about art’
  • 4North American informal count noun A heated dispute.

    ‘rhubarbs often broke out among these less than professional players’
    • ‘But I will say that Lederer lost his only chance to win the game when he didn't lodge a protest against Collier during a third-inning rhubarb.’
    • ‘After all, Martin reasoned, such retaliation is a commonplace of baseball, with brushback rhubarbs happening almost weekly every season.’
    • ‘An intense rhubarb developed which lasted 34 minutes.’
    • ‘Still, it was just a run-of-the-mill rhubarb, barely worth comment, which is true of most such arguments between arbiters and managers or players.’
    argument, dispute, disagreement, quarrel, row, fight, squabble, difference of opinion, altercation, angry exchange, war of words, shouting match, tiff
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (denoting the rootstock of other plants of this genus used medicinally): from Old French reubarbe, from a shortening of medieval Latin rheubarbarum, alteration (by association with rheum ‘rhubarb’) of rhabarbarum ‘foreign rhubarb’, from Greek rha (also meaning ‘rhubarb’) + barbaros ‘foreign’.