Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Sense: 1
Date: 1900-2000
Origin: tabulator 'tab key' (19-21 centuries), from tabulate
Sense: 2-3
Date: 1800-1900
Origin: Partly from table
Sense: 4-7, 9
Date: 1600-1700
Origin: Origin unknown.
Sense: 8
Date: 1900-2000
Origin: tablet

tab

1 noun
     
tab1 [countable]
1

in typing

TC a tab key
2

money that you owe

an amount of money that you owe, or a record of an amount of money that you owe:
The tab for the campaign was nearly $500 million.
I'll put it on your tab and you can pay tomorrow.
He ran up a $4000 tab in long-distance calls.
3

pick up the tab

to pay for something, especially when it is not your responsibility to pay:
Taxpayers will pick up the tab for the stadium.
4

to open

a) especially American EnglishDFDT a small piece of metal that you pull to open a can of drink [= ring pull British English]
b) a small piece of metal, plastic, or paper that you pull to open something
5

small piece of paper/plastic etc

D a small piece of paper, cloth, plastic etc that sticks out from the edge of something, so that you can find it more easily:
an index tab labeled 'Blackman'
6 also license tab American English a small piece of sticky plastic with a date on it that you put on your car's license plate to show that the car is legally allowed on the road
7

keep (close) tabs on somebody/something

informal to watch someone or something carefully to check what they are doing:
The police have been keeping tabs on Rogers since he got out of prison.
8

drug

informalMDD a form of the illegal drug LSD or ecstasy:
a tab of acid
9

cigarette

British English informalDFT a cigarette

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