Would like to smoke or dab sometime
In slang, dab can be a highly concentrated marijuana extract, a type of hip-hop dance, or touching the ground with your foot while you ride a bicycle.
Doing any of these actions is called dabbing, and yes, you could feasibly do all three at once—not that we recommend it.
Where does dab come from?
Dab, in its regular use, is a noun or verb referring to light taps or strokes, but it has taken on a number of slang senses.
In the marijuana community, dabbing refers to a more intense form of consuming marijuana. It involves a person smoking hash oil burned with butane, resulting in nearly straight THC—and a very intense high. These cannabis extracts are referred to as dabs.
Though the ability to create dabs goes back for decades, dabbing only started catching on in the 2010s, at which point it got the slang name dabbing, based on how one dabs an amount of concentrate to smoke it. There is a serious concern that dabbing is far more dangerous than conventional pot smoking.
Dabbing also became a type of hip-hop dance in the 2010s. It originated in Atlanta, Georgia. The dance move involves extending one arm up and out while the other arm, parallel, covers at the elbow pit.
Dabbing was popularized by members of the Quality Control label, particularly Migos, whose 2015 song (later updated to “Look at My Dab”) brought the dance to a wider audience. Credit also goes to Skippa Da Flippa’s 2014 “How Fast.”
Dabbing went viral after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dabbed in the end zone in 2015. The dance went on to be performed by everyone from actor Betty White to kids in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
As for how the dance got dubbed dabbing, performer Bow Wow claims that the moves are supposed to replicate covering one’s mouth from the coughing fits that happen after one ingests a hash dab.
Then there’s the cyclist’s dabbing, which refers to the action of quickly putting your foot on the ground while you ride a bicycle, motorcycle, or mountain bike for balance. This version originates at least by the 1980s but tends to be cycling jargon.
How is dab used in real life?
People may dab to dance or to celebrate an accomplishment or win. Because hip-hop dabbing became so widespread in the mid-2010s, it’s sometimes mentioned as another example of appropriating Black culture. As a result in part, dabbing is often called out as something that is not cool, though it used to be.
Hash dabbing, on the other hand, is still highly sought after by its fans, and has become more popular as marijuana has become more legalized. If there’s one thing anyone needs to know about this version of dabbing, though, it’s that it is intense.
If you hear bicyclists talk about dabbing, all they mean is putting their feet on the ground while they ride. It is based on the idea of dab, or to lightly tap. It usually happens when someone is about to fall off their bike as a way of catching themselves. It may incur a penalty in cycling-based competitions.
More examples of dab:
“Experts are coming forward, however, to urge caution when creating and using dabs, as there are some dangers that come along with it.”
—Gina M. Florio, Bustle, August 2016
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Dab definition, to pat or tap gently, as with something soft or moist: The child dabbed his eyes with the handkerchief. See more.
Stoners Share Their Worst Dabbing Stories
Even if you’re a daily stoner, the first time you dab can be a terrifying, coughing-fit filled experience if you’re not properly prepared. Though shatter may not be as “toxic and highly addictive” as some reports may lead you to believe, it can still really fuck you up.
If you’ve been getting high in 2016 but still haven’t heard of dabs, it refers to smoking super-pure THC concentrates that have been extracted from weed. Extraction is not the most simple process—it can actually be quite dangerous since it involves flammable chemicals—so it’s best left to the pros. The resulting product can vary, but most commonly it looks like a hard taffy.
Doing a dab is an experience that’s landed me immobilized in a vintage dentist chair at a cannabis industry party, and on another occasion, taught me that hallucinogens aren’t the only class of drugs that can make you trip. I reached out to stoners with varying degrees of experience with cannabis to find out what happened to them the fateful day they decided to dab for the first time.
I went to an outdoor wedding last summer, and after getting wasted off the open bar, I was looking around for something a bit stronger as the night went on. No one really had any drugs except for this one dude who looked fucking trashed and was hitting on all the bridesmaids. When I approached him, he immediately offered to give me a dab, so we went behind his car that was parked on the grass and he set up the rig on the hood. It was really dark, so I couldn’t see shit, and we were using our phones as flashlights. Of course when I went to hit it, I burned myself on the hot red metal part. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to seem like an idiot; I got a huge blister on my hand that lasted for a couple weeks. On top of that, even though I have been smoking weed for years, I coughed my brains out to the point where I had tears streaming down my face and was nauseous. Luckily it was dark out so no one could really tell. After, I was so fucking sweaty and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep. It was way too intense. Honestly, some cocaine would have sufficed.
Not only does this stuff get you really high, but it is also strangely beautiful. Photo via Flickr user Andres Rodriguez
My first time I really dabbed was before the word dab existed, which was in 2005. Around two years ago, dabbing became a thing in Denver, Colorado. (I have been smoking weed for 14 years.) Before legalization, I tried an original, craft-cannabis strain of “budder.” Back then, we didn’t know how to dab because dabbing wasn’t a thing. We took a tiny drop on a little paperclip, used a lighter, and a pen cap.
But when dabbing became a big thing around 2014, I remember being at Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit. My friend from Dancesafe was there, and she was like, “Want to do a dab?” And we were like, “What’s that? Sure!” So we went with her, and she was like, “Let me pull out my rig.” We thought she was talking about needles, so we were really freaked out. She pulled out the rig and a blowtorch, which was also really freaky. Like what is going on? Why does she have a blowtorch? We did the first dab, and we didn’t have any weed, so when she offered another dab, we were like, “sure, yeah,” because when you smoke weed you smoke so much, right? Two dabs will do you. We were so high for the rest of the day. I don’t think I did any other drugs at that festival.
A lot of people think that you should keep dabbing and dabbing because in the media they see people taking huge ones, but all you really need is a tiny dab, and two can sometimes be too much. People also think that just like regular cannabis you’re supposed to hold it in, but one of the tips I got working at Vapor Central [Lisa is currently co-manager at Hotbox Medi Lounge and is the founder of Budz Trading Zone, a cannabis-themed offshoot of Bunz Trading Zone] is that you should blow it out right away. Anytime I give anyone new to it a dab, I tell them not to hold it in. It’s 80 percent plus THC, so you don’t need to hold it in.
For some reason, two experiences mentioned in this article ended in a dentist chair. Coincidence? We think not. Photo by the author
I was at my friend’s house, and it was just a bunch of guys who smoke weed and do nothing. It was after school, and I used to go there basically every day, and I smoked some weed but not as much as they did—maybe once a week. So my one friend asked if I wanted to smoke a dab, and I was like, “Fuck it, whatever.” I was already super stoned on hash at that moment too, so I smoked it and then like obviously got destroyed and was half asleep. It was all really weird because we were watching How It’s Made, and I was seriously tripping. Ten minutes later, my mom called and said I had a dentist appointment in ten minutes I totally had forgot about.
I lived down the street from this guy’s house anyways, so she was there in five minutes to pick me up. She called being like, “I’m outside, you have the dentist, hurry up.” And I was like… fuck. So we went. She knew I was really fucked up, but my mom is pretty young so she didn’t care really. Then I just like sat in the chair while the dentist worked on my cavity and fell asleep for almost the whole time. The dentist probably knew my eyes were super red, but they gave me glasses. I don’t think they said anything; they barely even talked to me. I remember it was really awkward—I couldn’t even stay awake. I was like so fucking over it and never smoked dabs again. I legit fell asleep at the dentist’s; they like had to wake me up halfway through because I kept closing my mouth. It was so whack.
A wild brontosaurus dab rig appears. Photo via Flickr user Steven Schwartz
My friends and I went to Melanheadz, which was a vapor lounge that has since been busted, and I tried dabs and butter mixed. I went in, [the proprietor] set everything up, and instructed me on how to smoke it. While doing it, I pulled too hard like I was smoking a bong, but I didn’t know it was different. I ended up choking and not being able to clear my bowl. I was coughing so hard for literally like ten minutes. Even though I am a daily smoker (usually I smoke blunts and joints), the people inside were laughing at me saying I was a noob and shit. All I was thinking was that I didn’t give a fuck, I just wanted the coughing to stop, and at one point I barfed after the coughing stopped. When I was coughing I was telling myself, Never again, this isn’t worth it.
After I calmed down from the coughing, I felt like a potato. I sat in the backseat of my friend’s car while we just drove around, and it was so sick because I felt like I was the car. I was in tune with everything around me, and I got the munchies. I was so hungry I ate two Philly cheesesteaks, a McChicken, a fish filet, and large fries, and a drink. Then we went to the Scarborough Bluffs and my boys rolled a blunt, but I didn’t even feel like getting high for the whole rest of the day.
I’ve been smoking weed since I was 14 years old. I literally smoke every day before and after I do anything, but dabs fuck with me. I tried them for the first time last year (though I’ve known about them for years) and found out they just make me want to pass out. I was at my friend’s place, and with the experience I have, I didn’t really think anything of trying out a new way of smoking. I was wrong. After I took my first hit, I was coughing even though I never really do that after hitting anything. My head was fucking pounding, and it wouldn’t stop. In my mind, I was like like, What the fuck, I’m never smoking again. It makes me hate being high and question my life choices way more so than smoking in any other way—and I love weed. Anytime I hit a dab, just like that first time, it makes me question why I chose to smoke that day or that moment, I’m just like, I would rather have just not smoked today than to feel like this. I can handle a dab pen, but when it comes to doing actual dabs from a rig, yeah, I’d rather not. But sometimes I do it anyway.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Hint: Don't hold it in.