Intermediate+ Word of the Day: scrub

scrub (verb, noun) /skrʌb/ LISTEN

Facial scrubs can help exfoliate your skin.

Most commonly, scrub means ‘to remove dirt from something or to clean by rubbing hard with a cloth or a brush.’ Scrub also means ‘to cancel or postpone’ in informal language. As a noun, a scrub can be the act of scrubbing or a cosmetic product made for scrubbing the skin, or it can be a lot of plants and low trees growing in a forest or other uncultivated area. In US English, it is also used to refer to an animal of supposedly inferior breed and, in slang, to an insignificant person.

Example sentences

  • No matter how hard he scrubbed, James couldn't get the stain out of his favorite shirt.
  • I know we said we'd meet on Wednesday, but something's come up; let's scrub that and arrange the meeting for another day instead.
  • The bathroom is filthy; it needs a good scrub.
  • A scrub can help make your skin look brighter by cleaning away the dead skin cells.
  • Tamsin could hear some kind of animal moving through the low, dense scrub.
  • The dog isn't purebred; he's just a scrub.

Words often used with scrub

scrub up well (UK): look good when you put on smart clothes. Example: “Because he is a mechanic, Dan normally just wears work clothes, but his friends were surprised to see how well he scrubbed up when he put on a suit.” In the US we usually say ‘clean up well.’

Did you know?

When surgeons perform an operation, they have to scrub up first, which means that they have to wash their hands very thoroughly, and the surgery has to be carried out in a scrubbed (i.e., sterile) environment. Because of this, the clothes surgeons wear when they are performing surgery have come to be known as scrubs. Nurses and other doctors also wear scrubs.

In pop culture

Scrubs is the title of a US TV show set in a hospital. You can see the trailer for the first season of the show here:

Additional information

A scrub is also a small or stunted tree, often barely larger than a bush.

Other forms

scrubber (noun), scrubbable (adjective)


Scrub dates back to the first half of the 14th century and comes from the Middle Dutch word schrobben and the Middle English word scrobben.

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