Definition of ribbon in English:



  • 1A long, narrow strip of fabric, used for tying something or for decoration.

    ‘the tiny pink ribbons in her hair’
    mass noun ‘four lengths of ribbon’
    • ‘The pink ribbon is the generic symbol for breast cancer awareness throughout the world.’
    • ‘Now they'll all have pink ribbons on them thanks to you.’
    • ‘Her first effort involved a pair of handkerchiefs, a length of pink ribbon and a thread to stitch them together - made simply to free herself from the grip of the corset.’
    • ‘Baubles can be painted, stencilled, sprayed, wrapped or decorated with fabric, ribbons, glitter, pearls and beads.’
    • ‘Anyone with some free time on Friday to sell pink ribbons should contact Marian Smyth or Mary Foster.’
    • ‘They are studded with stones and plastic gems, also sometimes with ribbons and glittering fabric paints to enhance the look.’
    • ‘I was visiting my neighbor again, and he brought me a tiny black puppy with a pink ribbon around her neck.’
    • ‘Wash them in a pillowcase and put them in your dryer for at least 20 minutes, then dress them up with ribbons and holiday fabrics.’
    • ‘Create this stole by stitching together ribbons, trims and fabric scraps temporarily held together with water-soluble stabilizer.’
    • ‘Boyle, who appeared onstage to present an award, caused the biggest stir of the night with her outfit: an outrageous pink tutu accented by ribbons wrapped around her calves.’
    • ‘Here, we padded a wall with batting and fabric, then secured crisscrossing ribbons with fabric tacks.’
    • ‘An array of beaded and fabric fringes, colorful ribbons, rickracks and other decorative trims are available, and it's fun to create your own combination of two or more.’
    • ‘She constructed additional storage compartments from boxes wrapped in fabrics and ribbons.’
    • ‘The Fisher's daughter, who has long blonde hair in pink ribbons, comes in and calls for Polly.’
    • ‘There were times, she would go to the mountain, and undo the tiny ribbons and loosen the braids, and run her fingers through her hair and let it be one with the wind.’
    • ‘Tracy shook her head; her tiny braid, tied with a pink ribbon, swung back and forth.’
    • ‘Her hair is divided into two neat braids (with pink ribbons, of course) and there's a tooth missing from the upper row.’
    • ‘Or you can simply buy a pink ribbon from your local Cancer Research UK charity shop for a suggested donation of £1.’
    • ‘Selfridges is promising a wrapping service using vintage and recycled ribbons, bows and fabrics.’
    • ‘There were yellow and pink ribbons holding her blue braids together at the ends.’
    1. 1.1 A ribbon of a special colour or design awarded as a prize or worn to indicate the holding of an honour, especially a small multicoloured piece of ribbon worn in place of the medal it represents.
      ‘his medal ribbons were bright as a rainbow’
      • ‘He opened it to reveal a collection of small medals and ribbons.’
      • ‘Rawlinson's London Times obituary said that he wore his ribbons and decorations ‘worthily,’ having earned all of them.’
      • ‘Every competitor is given an award - a gold, silver or bronze medal or a ribbon.’
      • ‘There was a time when police officers looked smart, were uniform in appearance, had somewhere to display their medal ribbons, and all without detriment to comfort or personal protection.’
      • ‘Winners will be awarded medals and ribbons with the Special Olympics South Africa logo.’
      • ‘With 18 years in the Corps, he's not about to retire, especially after three combat award ribbons and that Silver Star.’
      • ‘On the bridge a Leading Stoker spotted his WWII Medal ribbons and said: ‘You must have been a CO of a battalion during the war, sir’?’
      • ‘My parents divorced when I was younger and I loved how proud my dad was of me whenever I brought home a new ribbon or a medal.’
      • ‘It is an overwhelming, overflowing kaleidoscope of color, faces, tanned bodies, trophies, medals and ribbons.’
      • ‘All-Star Reading Day and Championship Day are special days of honor and joy for the children, who receive ribbons, certificates or medals.’
      • ‘As veterans we leave the military with medals, ribbons and a national debt of gratitude for our service.’
      • ‘As you play online, each point you get counts towards medals, ribbons and ranks that can be won.’
      • ‘As yet, the colour and design of the ribbon has not been decided.’
      • ‘He earned four service medals and three ribbons before his honorable discharge in 1994.’
      • ‘With the proliferation of medals and ribbons for this and that, the time has arrived for the Combat Tanker Badge.’
      • ‘What is the significance of the ribbons, insignia and medals?’
      • ‘Campbell attached copies of his military records to the lawsuit, showing that he received a Purple Heart and eight other medals, ribbons and decorations for his service in Vietnam.’
      • ‘The issue was whether Kerry threw away his medals or merely his medal ribbons during a protest in Washington DC.’
      • ‘They hated that, felt it was all wrong to have him stand there in his getup - the four stars, his ribbons and decorations, and his pearl-handled revolvers.’
      • ‘He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.’
      honour, decoration, star, order, badge, pin, laurel, wreath, palm, colours, insignia, plaque, award, trophy
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2ribbons Prizes; honours.
      ‘in the Silk Cup trophy class Mullins stayed in the ribbons’
      • ‘In our amateur classes, we were actually in the ribbons, having our names announced for the first time!’
  • 2A long, narrow strip.

    ‘slice the peppers into ribbons lengthways’
    • ‘Then there was hamachi lightly braised in ginger tea, and yellowtail tataki crusted in pepper and laid in ribbons over slices of peach and soft avocado.’
    • ‘An orange ribbon of flame is charring its way across more than 20,000 acres near Los Angeles.’
    • ‘Northern lights are ribbons of different colored lights that streak across the sky.’
    • ‘It was sleeting, and my team spotted a ribbon of smoke in the forest and wheeled off the road to a campfire, around which huddled six Lithuanian cyclists.’
    • ‘The fluorescent tagging devices are short glass ribbons just 100 micrometers long and 20 microm wide.’
    • ‘The clever idea here is to make the shell of the chair out of a continuous broad ribbon of material that forms seat, back and sides in one fluid movement.’
    • ‘Drive south from San Francisco, along the black ribbon of Route 1 as it hugs the northern coast of California.’
    • ‘Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, finely slice carrots lengthways into ribbons.’
    • ‘From the perch of my small roof garden I was able to see two long ribbons of black smoke exhaling from wounds in either tower.’
    • ‘Suddenly an explosion flamed in space, a ribbon of orange fire slashing out of the hull like a whip, lashing out into the blackness of space.’
    • ‘The leading edge of the ice freezes to the stem's papery bark, and as the ice grows it is lifted upward by the attached bark, forming delicately curved, lacy ribbons.’
    • ‘When they are cool enough to handle, peel the peppers and remove the seeds, then cut each pepper into 8 ribbons from the stem end to the bottom.’
    • ‘Quartz commonly forms polycrystalline ribbons; undulatory extinction, dynamic recrystallization and grain-boundary migration are widespread.’
    • ‘The A888 is a narrow ribbon of tarmac that curls and loops around the inlets and headlands of the Hebridean island of Barra.’
    • ‘I tucked in, and with a sideways glance through the bare low hedge, pushed on and on and tried to be optimistic about a ten-degree ribbon of pink sky.’
    • ‘The ribbon of land mass, fringed with coconut trees, stretches for more than 12,500 miles around a vast lagoon.’
    • ‘A voiceover intones, ‘No more excuses, start to snack smart,’ as the camera shows ribbons of fruit in yogurt.’
    • ‘Beat the eggs with the sugar and lime peel until thick and ribbons form from the beaters when lifted.’
    • ‘That creates black borders at top and bottom and a narrow ribbon of picture across the middle of your TV screen.’
    • ‘It is a ribbon of material along which magnetic particles are arranged to store data.’
    1. 2.1 A narrow band of impregnated material wound on a spool and forming the inking agent in some typewriters and computer printers.
      ‘the notes had been typed on an old portable with a faded ribbon’
      • ‘David waited tables, sold typewriter ribbons, and even delivered singing telegrams.’
      • ‘My assignments never looked so good and when I wasn't printing, I'd put the ribbon in the fridge to make it last longer.’
      • ‘In 1888, the typewriter ribbon was patented by Jacob L. Wortman.’
      • ‘Final reports were prepared on manual typewriters with two-color ribbons so that totals appeared in red.’
      • ‘The first tape storage products utilized magnetic particles coated onto a thin ribbon of metal substrate.’
      • ‘He wrote up a report (on a typewriter, whose ribbon he destroyed afterwards) and sent it to the US embassy in Bonn.’
      • ‘They drove to Grossman's typists and took their copies, and their typewriter ribbons.’
      • ‘Each page through a printer or copier takes another bit of ink off the ribbon, or another copy off of the machine's life expectancy.’
      • ‘The Man's story, for example, is told through a collection of discarded typewriter ribbons that Macushla finds in the basement of his uncle's house.’
      • ‘Another laugh came after Moore trailed off, holding the book up so the audience could see that the typeface was fading as Stella's typewriter ribbon runs out of ink.’
      • ‘Forensic examiners were able to reconstruct the text of what had been typed on the ribbon of this typewriter.’
      • ‘For example, they are used to provide the black color in inks, pigments, rubber tires, stove polish, typewriter ribbons, and phonograph records.’
      • ‘There was a time, long ago that printers had ribbons and used dot matrix printing to create tiny dots that, when looked at, were readable.’
      belt, sash, girdle, strap, tape, ring, hoop, loop, circlet, circle, cord, tie, string, thong, fillet, strip
      View synonyms


  • no object, with adverbial of direction Extend or move in a long, narrow strip like a ribbon.

    ‘miles of concrete ribboned behind the bus’
    • ‘The pathway is now used by people who walk, run or cycle along the scenic trails, which ribbon in and around Canmore.’
    • ‘Just when the filigree of family ties here splays open from my blood, ravelling into the mossy veins ribboning along through the dark peat, shadows in another land take form, tugging on my twine of years tangled in that other place.’
    • ‘Let it ribbon through holiday centerpieces, over mantels or stream it across doorways.’
    • ‘But dead ahead, far away across the valley where the ground began to rise sharply again in stands of pine, a narrow white swath of cleared ground ribboned through the dark trees, clearly visible.’
    • ‘Little red cuts ribboned across the top of her feet; several beads of blood gathered and threatened to fall in the aircar.’
    • ‘All seven colors of magic ribboned through the spell-form, which looked superficially like a gate.’
    • ‘When the orange mixture starts to ribbon, remove the basin and stand it in cold water to cool slightly.’
    • ‘The road ribboned down the steepest slopes in switchbacks so convoluted that I continually met Christina almost head-on but with my eyes level with her pedals.’
    • ‘To escape the whispers, I fled outside where wild flowers ribboned under the fence, or to the old stables.’
    • ‘Laura Smith's colour-crammed back-projections, with captions ribboning up the side, are now fully-fledged and better-timed.’
    • ‘Freeways ribbon across picture postcard views, and there are more dulcet Kiwi tones on National Radio than I can translate fast enough.’


  • cut a (or the) ribbon

    • Ceremonially open a building or road, typically by cutting a ribbon across the entrance.

      ‘the MP cut a ribbon to mark the completion of the new bypass’
      figurative ‘the firm cut the ribbon on a £30 million joint venture in Beijing’
      • ‘They will start signing autographs and meeting fans from 2.30 pm until 7pm after cutting the ribbon to open the store's new gallery extension.’
      • ‘After a blessing by branch chaplain Father John Tyrrell, Mayor Everitt and John Gould cut the ribbon to officially open the building.’
      • ‘With banners flying, the group shouted their objections as Essex County Council officials cut the ribbon to officially open the new road.’
      • ‘Tomorrow, Jack McConnell, the First Minister, will cut the ribbon that officially opens the station and marks an end to the needless delays.’
      • ‘Sean Bean, renowned for his ‘100 per cent Blade’ tattoo, will use his sword from the TV series Sharpe to cut the ribbon to officially open the centre.’
      • ‘After cutting the ribbon to the entrance to the woodland walk I was presented with a bouquet by the youngest daughters of the last grandchild to be actually born at Townhead.’
      • ‘The Prince rounded off the tour by cutting a ribbon to officially open the shop when he received a surprise from Kendal royalist Wyn Newman, 77, who presented him with her lovingly-stitched tapestry of Crathie Church, near Balmoral.’
      • ‘West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison cut the ribbon to open the £475,000 building, which was jointly funded by the college and the Learning and Skills Council.’
      • ‘A long-time resident of Cullingworth, Elsie Hollingsworth, and a pupil from Cullingworth Primary School, Jessica Darnbrook, officially opened the trail by cutting a ribbon in a ceremony at the viaduct.’
      • ‘Mary officially opened the show by cutting the ribbon with Mickey on one side and the very popular Duncan Stewart on the other, each of whom planted a loving kiss on her cheek!’
  • cut (or tear) something to ribbons

    • 1Cut (or tear) something so badly that only ragged strips remain.

      ‘the counterpane had been cut to ribbons’
      • ‘He, Seven, squirmed under Eight's grip, teeth bared furiously, and dragged the knife through Eight's long coat, tearing the fabric to ribbons.’
      • ‘The machete stabbed and slashed, cutting his shirt to ribbons.’
      • ‘Take one item, set it on fire or tear it to ribbons (you'll love it, trust me), then box the rest up and send them to the Goodwill.’
      • ‘When it comes time for our vampires to dispatch the unlucky couple they have chosen, they rip off their stylish Ankh pendants and cut their necks to ribbons with a hidden blade.’
      • ‘Cadi wondered aloud as she and Jeir cut a serpent to ribbons.’
      • ‘At the height of the battle, three other enemy ships were also pouring death into the ‘Billy Ruffian'. Shot tore away sails, ripped up deck planking, cut hammocks to ribbons and hurled guns from their carriages.’
      1. 1.1Damage something severely.
        ‘the country has seen its economy torn to ribbons by recession’
        • ‘Both batsmen have the ability to tear any attack to ribbons and a quick 60 or 70 from them will set Border on the road to a good total.’
        • ‘The line-up now is rather different from two years ago when O'Driscoll cut them to ribbons with a fantastic hat-trick in Paris.’
        • ‘Yes, his squad of highly skilled artists can weave beautiful patterns and cut a poor defence to ribbons, but we knew that anyway.’
        • ‘It was fine with people, as far as we knew, but it nearly tore another dog to ribbons and the staff had to deal with that.’
        • ‘Six sets of brilliance had taken him through the final two rounds as he cut Andy Roddick and then Mark Philippoussis to ribbons.’
        • ‘So with a rail strike cutting services to ribbons, the impact on York was guaranteed to be devastating.’
        • ‘If he waited for reinforcements, then his ship would be cut to ribbons by the time help arrived.’
        • ‘Apparently it's not enough to sue 12 year-old girls, they have to make make sure your favourite TV shows are cut to ribbons as well.’
        • ‘For the first time she seemed to notice that her hands were cut to ribbons.’
        • ‘On the physical side my hands are cut to ribbons, I have never cut and scratched myself at work like I have in the past few weeks, this also included a major electric shock which left a burn on my right wrist (now faded).’
        injure, hurt, damage, harm, maim, mutilate, disable, incapacitate, scar
        View synonyms


Early 16th century: variant of riband. The French spelling ruban was also frequent in the 16th–18th centuries.