Definition of stab in English:



  • 1 (of a person) thrust a knife or other pointed weapon into (someone) so as to wound or kill.

    ‘he stabbed him in the stomach’
    ‘the fatal stabbings of four rival gang members’
    • ‘Then, when Mr Dag told him to drop the knife, Balta stabbed him again, this time in the chest, and ran off.’
    • ‘The court heard that Bruin was in the process of arresting O'Neil when he pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the abdomen.’
    • ‘You feel you can't walk the street without someone trying to stab you or kill you.’
    • ‘When she was pregnant she stabbed me with a knife but for the sake of the child I let it go.’
    • ‘He critically wounded a judge named Yu, who had participated in Tan's trial, stabbing him with a knife.’
    • ‘Not to be outdone, Pujols pulled a knife and stabbed the man in the foot.’
    • ‘One of the boys then pulled out a knife and stabbed the victim in his right armpit.’
    • ‘He then came at me with the knife, trying to stab me in the stomach.’
    • ‘I don't think we should stab people and kill them.’
    • ‘An older man, probably around forty, had just killed a woman by stabbing her with a knife.’
    • ‘A Tadcaster shop worker was left terror-stricken today after a youth threatened to stab her with a knife unless she gave him money from the till.’
    • ‘When she reached a platform it is believed an argument broke out between her and another man, who produced a knife and stabbed her twice.’
    • ‘Southend police have vowed to crack down on late-night drinking in clubs and pubs in the wake of the two men being stabbed in a vicious knife fight.’
    • ‘Evans threatened to stab him with a knife and left.’
    • ‘. Deirdre picks up the paper knife and stabs him with the weapon.’
    • ‘Whilst in custody the appellant said in conversation that although she had the knife and did stab the driver they had only intended to rob him and not to kill him.’
    • ‘Three men were recovering in hospital today after being stabbed.’
    • ‘There was swearing and shouting and witnesses heard a voice, saying: ‘You won't be stabbing any more women.’’
    • ‘He became embroiled in a fight with the pair before one of them produced a knife and stabbed him.’
    • ‘Last Friday he managed to get into the hospital kitchens, where he grabbed a knife and threatened to stab members of staff.’
    knife, run through, skewer, spear, bayonet, gore, spike, stick, impale, transfix, pierce, prick, puncture, penetrate, perforate, gash, slash, cut, tear, scratch, wound, injure
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    1. 1.1[no object]Make a thrusting gesture or movement at something with a pointed object.
      ‘she stabbed at the earth with the fork’
      [with object] ‘she stabbed the air with her forefinger’
      • ‘Some school kids were having a great time stabbing at the screen but quickly lost interest when it wasn't clear what the maps were all about and so did we.’
      • ‘Aislinn and Christopher rose up into the air with the other flyers, swinging their blades and stabbing at the glassy robot eyes.’
      • ‘He let go of my neck and brought it to his eyes, and with his other hand, stabbed wildly into the air.’
      • ‘He ran for me and started stabbing at me, aiming at my head.’
      • ‘Her attempts to manage her own dark straight hair consisted of keeping it cut short and stabbing at it with a curling iron every once in a while.’
      • ‘The cowboy stabs sideways with his finger, indicating he's turning off just up the road.’
      • ‘I flipped off him backwards as one of his partners stabbed at me with a just-drawn knife.’
      • ‘He was really brave to tackle a burglar who was stabbing at him with a screwdriver.’
      • ‘The campaign is flat out, and so is the prime minister, a whirlwind of argument, arms flailing, fingers stabbing.’
      • ‘Blake is tiny, pink, beautiful in his miniature perfection; but it is perhaps Rohan who stabs most keenly at your heart.’
      • ‘Casey's fingers stabbed at the map to show the strategic purpose of the Soviet army's thrust into that nation.’
      • ‘The creature stabbed at the piece of armour with a forefinger as if it were trying to punch holes in it.’
      • ‘Flashes of lightning cut the sky like daggers, staggeringly bright, stabbing down towards the earth like assassins' blades.’
      lunge, thrust, jab, poke, prod, dig
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    2. 1.2[no object](of a sharp or pointed object) violently pierce.
      ‘a sharp end of wicker stabbed into his sole’
      • ‘Each channel separates into many streamers and stabs into the ionosphere at 4 million miles per hour.’
      • ‘Lying on her side, she raises a leg with a flexed foot, seemingly independent from the rest of her body, and stabs into the floor.’
      • ‘Everything got real fuzzy for her when something sharp was stabbed into her leg, and suddenly, everything became a good sensation to her bleary and dull senses.’
      • ‘A sharp pain stabbed through Nukurren's ruined eye.’
      • ‘But where the roof was broken, thin rays of sunlight stabbed through the dark like spotlights and gave a spectral light.’
      • ‘The mountain stabs into the sky above Pakistan; a jagged monolith of granite, limestone and ice.’
      • ‘Finally, two headlights came stabbing through the dark.’
      • ‘A sharp pinprick or pain stabbed through my left hand, and I jumped, looking down to see the largest mosquito in the world.’
      • ‘A blade of light stabbed through the curtains, piercing Jeff Drake's dream.’
      • ‘The motorcade flashed its circular lights, stabbing through the night air; the women's hues of dressing gowns were matte and shimmering in the spring air.’
      • ‘Pine needles as sharp as swords stabbed into his exposed body and he yelped out in agonizing pain.’
      • ‘The world around him was dark with voices stabbing through.’
      • ‘Something small but very sharp stabbed through the skin on the bottom of her foot and filled it with a sharp pain.’
      • ‘Most people are speechless and uncomprehending, stunned by the violence that stabbed into their lives so suddenly.’
      • ‘Fredrico's sharp, piercing eyes stabbed into Lind.’
      • ‘The moonlight stabbing through clouds woke me up.’
      • ‘Inside the skywalk, the Illuminaballs created the appearance of hundreds of crystal rods stabbing through the skywalk in different directions.’
      • ‘As the two swords clashed, a sharp ringing stabbed through the empty streets as the sun peeked over the rooftops.’
      • ‘The arm ripples and stabs into the dark space, then, as the momentum builds up to the pulsing of Andy Cowton's music, both arms are flying and whirling - and a leg, too, though she never shifts from her rooted spot.’
      • ‘Everywhere were scrub cactus and yucca plants looming with sharp spines to catch the unwary passer-by and stab into the skin.’
    3. 1.3[no object](of a pain or painful thing) cause a sudden sharp sensation.
      ‘I felt a stabbing pain in my chest’
      • ‘The pilots thoughts reverted to the pain stabbing at his temples.’
      • ‘He grunted, feeling the pain of the arrow stabbing at him mercilessly.’
      • ‘But this time, something overrode that instinct to not appear weak, and she felt tears stabbing in the corners of her eyes.’
      • ‘She felt pain stabbing at her stomach and her shoulder.’
      • ‘She took a step from him, only to stumble as a sharp pain stabbed across her abdomen.’
      • ‘Before she had even time to think, she felt a sharp pain stab through all her limbs.’
      • ‘Most women describe this pain as sharp and stabbing.’
      • ‘For a moment she could not move because of the pain, a sharpness stabbing her chest, then it grew less intense, shifting to lower down, in her belly.’
      • ‘My guilt started stabbing away, attacking my soul.’
      • ‘He was dizzy and a sharp pain stabbed into the back of his head.’
      • ‘He paused and straightened up, grimacing at the sharp pain stabbing at his lower back.’
      • ‘He was firing when I suddenly felt stabbing pain in my right shoulder.’
      • ‘Then, released from the painful spasms, I let my body go limp, trying to slow my breathing, the pain stabbing out at me.’
      • ‘There was dried blood on it, and her wound was sending stabs of pain through across her stomach.’
      • ‘Pain stabbed at her from every direction, and she struggled to maintain her stony face.’
      • ‘Her heart stabbed with pain as she thought of her father and she turned her attention to the second painting.’
      excruciating, agonizing, intense, violent, piercing, stabbing, shooting, stinging, severe, acute, keen, fierce, searing
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  • 1A thrust with a knife or other pointed weapon.

    [as modifier] ‘multiple stab wounds’
    • ‘He survived life threatening stab injuries when knifed in his cell by a prisoner who had been brought overnight for a family visit that day.’
    • ‘The pair clashed - Vea blocking an embittered stab with his own weapon and almost dropping to a knee in the thickening mud.’
    • ‘A knife stab laceration or glass injury to the hand would make exploration of the wound mandatory.’
    • ‘Despite the valiant efforts of members of the public and medical staff he died several hours later at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, from multiple stab wounds.’
    • ‘He said she stabbed him first, thus explaining his multiple stab wounds.’
    • ‘Every time a robed thing approached him, it would find itself at the wrong end of a stab, slice, slash or kick.’
    • ‘Mr Simpson was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where he was said last night to be in a serious condition, with multiple stab wounds.’
    • ‘Pennington, who died from multiple stab wounds to his chest and stomach after trying to fight off his attacker, has been praised as a hero for saving the MP's life.’
    • ‘They fell into a steady pattern of parries, stabs, and slashes.’
    • ‘The woman, Joyce Cordova, was treated for multiple stab wounds and later released from an Albuquerque hospital.’
    • ‘Blood was still rushing from the wound Fitzwilliam had inflicted on himself with a wild stab.’
    • ‘She had suffered multiple stab wounds to her chest.’
    • ‘A mother suffering from multiple stab wounds is expected to recover.’
    • ‘Mrs Humes was found with multiple stab wounds and taken to Rotherham District General Hospital, where she died despite being admitted to an intensive care unit.’
    • ‘A 19-year-old sustained multiple stab wounds but is said to be in a stable condition in hospital after recovering from an operation.’
    • ‘Prosecutor Bob Elias said a machete-like knife had been used in the attack with the video showing one of the assailants thrusting three stabs at Mr Murgatroyd.’
    • ‘Although a knife is the most commonly used weapon to inflict stab wounds, other devices also can be used.’
    • ‘He danced and pirouetted gracefully around the horde of enemies, dealing fatal stabs and slashes with his jewel sword as he did.’
    • ‘The wound on his chest from the stab sealed up and his dead pale skin went back to its normal color.’
    • ‘An ambulance was called just before 11.10 am yesterday and Mr Horner was taken to York Hospital suffering from multiple stab wounds.’
    lunge, thrust, jab, poke, prod, dig, punch
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    1. 1.1A wound made by the thrust of a knife or other pointed weapon.
      ‘she had a deep stab in the back’
      • ‘Xin was shocked to find that he could not get up and noticed the deep stab from the Elantas sword in his thigh for the first time.’
      • ‘Chopper's toughness shines out while he receives multiple stabs from his best friend in prison early on in the film.’
      • ‘There were scars from burns, from stabs, slashes, and from his own magic.’
      knife wound, puncture, gash, slash, incision, prick, cut, perforation, wound, injury
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    2. 1.2A thrusting movement with a finger or other pointed object.
      ‘impatient stabs of his finger’
      • ‘I overestimated my stab and completely turned over my salad.’
      • ‘He tucked it between his ear and shoulder and dialed with quick, efficient stabs of his fingertip.’
      • ‘More than one unwary diver who has extended the hand of curiosity a little too far has lost a finger to the mantis shrimp's lightning stab - one of the fastest animal movements known.’
      • ‘Well, it was like stabs with a finger into Cedric's deltoid muscle.’
      lunge, thrust, jab, poke, prod, dig, punch
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    3. 1.3A sudden sharp feeling or pain.
      ‘she felt a stab of jealousy’
      • ‘Jen felt two sharp stabs of pain on the side of her neck.’
      • ‘How many others felt a sharp stab of anxiety as they stepped onto the underground escalator on their way to work?’
      • ‘He started to let go of his arm, so his hand could push the hair from his face, but when he moved the fingers, a stab of pain reminded him the arm was bleeding again.’
      • ‘He felt a sudden stab of grief; never would he tread upon that turf again.’
      • ‘When he saw the look of longing in her eyes towards the kiss Blake was sharing with his girlfriend his jaw tightened and he felt a sharp stab of jealousy.’
      • ‘Suppressing a sudden stab of anger, Joe rode for the camp and dismounted.’
      • ‘Stone jumped up, ignoring the sharp stab of pain as he rammed his knee on the edge of Earl's desk, and all but ran out of the door.’
      • ‘I felt a sharp stab of pain in my heart when I thought of him.’
      • ‘His head throbbed with sharp stabs of pain, he couldn't seem to stop shaking and his breath came in long, shuddering wheezes.’
      • ‘You feel a loose grinding sensation and stabs of sharp pain inside your throbbing shoulder.’
      • ‘Little, sharp stabs of pain woke Brett up from a peaceful slumber.’
      • ‘A sudden stab of pain in my stomach brought me back to my senses.’
      • ‘A sharp stab of hunger gnawed at Vincent's gut as he trudged along the dunes of sand that rose and fell like waves frozen in time.’
      • ‘He felt a sharp stab of pain as he remembered that that was part of being in love.’
      • ‘Suddenly there was a sharp stab of pain in her shoulder blade, and she leaned forward quickly, a sharp cry escaping out of her throat.’
      • ‘I went to reach for a second mug, figuring that Aidan might appreciate some coffee as well, when my foot gave a sudden sharp stab of pain.’
      • ‘There was a sudden stab of pain in Darren's ribs, but it passed quickly.’
      • ‘He felt a sharp stab of pain straight through his heart.’
      • ‘Suddenly he felt a sharp stab of pain in his side that pulled his awareness out of the darkness for a moment.’
      • ‘But when he remembered of Jeannie and Neal being engaged he felt a sharp stab of pain and jealousy somewhere deep inside himself.’
      twinge, pang, ache, throb, spasm, cramp, dart, blaze, prick, flash, thrill, gnawing
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    4. 1.4(in popular music) a staccato interjected phrase, typically by horns or a keyboard.
      ‘the fuzz guitar riff is replaced by some slinky brass stabs’
      • ‘We build drums, bass, atmospheres and do a lot of work with stabs and massive reverb/delays.’
      • ‘Its clean break is accompanied by evil synth stabs, while its catchy bongo slaps keep the tune running at full pace.’
      • ‘The mixtape begins with an autobiographical prologue; over climbing piano stabs, Hit-Boy assesses his quick rise and desire to share.’
      • ‘Spence takes you through how to chop between basslines, synth parts, vocal stabs and drum crashes to get you on your way to creating the distinctive dubstep rhythm.’
      • ‘They are both tasteful and dancefloor-worthy tracks with synth stabs that will keep you moving.’
      • ‘In nine tutorials we lead you through the music-making process, ending with the more detailed layers of musical production (writing lead lines, adding stabs and other effects).’
      • ‘"One Tone Man" is full of tight chord stabs and hits but is still able to keep a lofty and breezy vibe with falsetto vocals and drum and bass grooves.’
      • ‘Bastian puts a contemporary spin on classic soul with beat and horn stabs that punctuate her retro vocal.’
  • 2informal An attempt to do (something)

    ‘Meredith made a feeble stab at joining in’
    • ‘Asia's first stab at e-commerce did not work out as planned’
    • ‘Also, it's Murray's one stab at directing, and he comes off fairly well in it.’
    • ‘This competition is Mike's first proper stab at writing.’
    • ‘Daredevil entrepreneur Richard Branson will get another stab at an unusual flight on Saturday, when a replica of the first manned glider to take to the air sets off down a Yorkshire dale.’
    • ‘You may take a stab at guessing what happens, and you may be close, but probably a little off.’
    • ‘As another stab at bringing pub theatre to Calgary, it works well.’
    • ‘Aside from that momentary blip, I had a pretty good stab at everything and there was nothing I left blank - not even the odd word in the translation section.’
    • ‘Oh yes, last night I also went to see a friend from the Albert's Bridge cast's first stab at directing.’
    • ‘It is not, nor ever should be, a jingoistic patriotic stab at defining a nation's identity through theatre.’
    • ‘Unfortunately that goal was missed by a mere 75 minutes thanks to the elements conspiring against her, but undeterred she is pressing on with another stab at it in November.’
    • ‘She takes another stab at selecting an alternate career.’
    • ‘Linus takes his second brave stab at burning a DVD.’
    • ‘Her parents had been separated since she was two, but becoming refugees together was a last - unsuccessful - stab at reuniting.’
    • ‘Musically, it's a more than worthy stab at superior feel-good pop - it's nice and jangly, he's got some catchy tunes, and his voice sounds great.’
    • ‘New York stage vet Charles Busch has taken another stab at bringing his wondrous and elaborate drag acts to the big screen, with excellent results.’
    • ‘As to relations with the opposite sex, Skinner would cut no ice with Germaine Greer but he makes a well-intentioned if misdirected stab at equality.’
    • ‘Having flunked home economic lessons at school, it's about time that I had another stab at it.’
    • ‘The message to Viaux tells him to preserve his assets, remain prepared, and he would have another stab at it another day.’
    • ‘Afflicted by writer's block, Kaufman's frustration is heightened by the overnight success of his brother Donald's first stab at screenwriting.’
    • ‘It's a very thoughtful stab at a new kind of urban historiography - a contemporary, subjective, visual way of writing a city's history.’
    attempt, try, effort, endeavour
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  • a stab in the back

    • A treacherous act or statement.

      • ‘But the party has no tradition of back-stabbing its leaders: on the contrary, it has been very forbearing of them, even when a stab in the back might have been in everyone's interest.’
      • ‘‘To me it's a stab in the back to beet growers in the middle of negotiations on the sugar-regime reforms,’ he said.’
      • ‘Many said it was a stab in the back for our region.’
      • ‘He's sent regiments into battle only to tell them he's going to disband them - what a stab in the back.’
      • ‘By voting in favour of the latest UN resolution, they have delivered a stab in the back to the movement against war.’
      • ‘Outsourcing jobs overseas is a stab in the back to all the workers who have made this country what it is.’
      • ‘It's just, you were supposed to be my best friend and you dating my sister is like a stab in the back, a betrayal since she and I are sworn enemies.’
      • ‘This is a stab in the back and the last thing they need.’
      • ‘As one worker put it, ‘One week they pat you on the back, and the next it's a stab in the back.’’
      • ‘They knew only that it was a rich Spartan colony; capturing it would be a stab in the back of their enemy, bringing the long Peloponnesian War to a quick, triumphal end.’
  • stab someone in the back

    • Betray someone.

      • ‘There are some people whom I regarded as friends, but they stabbed me in the back; there are those that I injured by mistake, but they were actually good people in retrospect.’
      • ‘But I'm sure it's hard to talk to him and be civil with him after you feel he stabbed you in the back?’
      • ‘I felt I was stabbing him in the back when I put in the report, but really I had no choice after the last incident with the intruder.’
      • ‘To be told that they could be disbanded is like stabbing them in the back.’
      • ‘But it obviously put Cage into a state of shock: ‘He pretends to be my best friend - then the next day he stabs me in the back,’ said Cage.’
      • ‘Given the opportunity, the powerful will exploit the weak, and the person you love might betray you, stabbing you in the back.’
      • ‘They've been trying to be friends with the regimes, but at the same time those regimes have been stabbing us in the back on some very important issues.’
      • ‘Amanda and Chris had been the only two people who hadn't stabbed her in the back and betrayed her trust.’
      • ‘I know what childhood is and I know what it feels like when your best friend stabs you in the back,’ explains Meera.’
      • ‘The district council has stabbed us in the back.’
      betray, be disloyal to, be unfaithful to, desert, break one's promise to, double-cross, break faith with, sell out, play false, inform against, inform on
      tell on, sell down the river, blow the whistle on, squeal on, stitch up, peach on, do the dirty on
      grass on, shop
      rat out, finger, drop a dime on, drop the dime on
      pimp on, pool, put someone's pot on
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  • a stab in the dark


Late Middle English: of unknown origin.