rub off


rub off


  • refers to the transfer or influence of qualities, behaviors, or characteristics from one person to another.
  • to imitate or mimic someone’s behavior, style, or mannerisms.
  • become evident or noticeable.
  • to transfer from one surface to another through friction (literal meaning).

Example Sentences

  1. The instructor patiently explained the technique, ensuring that the knowledge would rub off on the students.
  2. At first, his talent was hidden, but with practice, it started to rub off.
  3. Kids tend to rub off their parents’ speech patterns without even realizing it.
  4. Be careful with that newspaper; the ink might rub off on your hands.
  5. The paint on the old door had started to rub off in some places.

Origin and History

Language is a charming factor of human culture, and idioms frequently encapsulate the richness and creativity found therein. One such idiom is “rub off.” Let’s delve into the interesting backstory of the idiomatic expression.

The turn-out phrase “rub off” has its roots in the historical utilization of charcoal or chalk to create rubbings of inscriptions typical of ancient monuments or tombstones. These rubbings were then transferred onto cloth or paper, retaining the textual content or image. Over time, this exercise advanced metaphorically and was applied to the English language as a locution.

This epithet is typically used to explain the influential transfer of habits or traits from one character to another. It implies the circumspect adoption and absorption of another person’s mannerisms, behaviors, and characteristics through extensive association. Colloquialism generally conveys the concept of diffused yet full-on adjustments in an individual’s attributes because of near proximity or non-stop exposure to another party.

Interestingly, there are numerous versions of the figure of speech in question that have emerged over time. These include “rub off on,” “rub onto,” or even “rub off onto.” While the foundational denotation stays intact throughout those variations, mild nuances come from the peculiar contextual prepositions to which it is applied.

Because of its gradual evolution through time, the particular origins of the language are difficult to pinpoint definitively. However, one noteworthy book that popularized the word was “The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,” written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. In the book, Crusoe’s journaling of his adventures on the abandoned island led him to study how the solitude affected his personality. This introspection elicited the expression, “Evil company, they say, doth rub off something of evil upon us.”

Next time you observe a person’s behavior or traits turning into a part of your own, do not forget the phrase and the way that it was introduced into the language’s lexicon.

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