A dab is a quick, soft application of something, like paint or makeup. You might touch up a clown's makeup with several dabs on his cheeks and forehead.

A dab is the motion with which you pat or apply something to a surface, and it's also the tiny amount of material you're applying. An artist might work in dabs of paint, and a baker might lick a dab of cake batter off her finger. Dab is a verb too: "Dab this aloe on your sunburn — it'll feel much better." A dab is a "light, striking movement," from the earlier dabben, "to strike."

Primary Meanings of dab

a light touch or stroke
hit lightly
a small quantity of something moist or liquid
apply (usually a liquid) to a surface
Full Definitions of dab

n a light touch or stroke

pat, tap
Type of:
touch, touching
the act of putting two things together with no space between them

v hit lightly

Type of:
deliver a sharp blow, as with the hand, fist, or weapon

n a small quantity of something moist or liquid

“a dab of paint”
splash, splatter
Type of:
small indefinite amount, small indefinite quantity
an indefinite quantity that is below average size or magnitude

v apply (usually a liquid) to a surface

dab the wall with paint”
swab, swob
Type of:
apply, put on
apply to a surface

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