What Does Burning Rubber Mean?

Burn Rubber Meaning

Definition: To go fast.

Origin of Burn Rubber

This expression comes from the literal meaning of the way tires can burn rubber in a fast moving car. If a car moves quickly enough, the tires can leave a mark on the street and smell like burning rubber.

People first began using this expression around the 1970s to describe cars going fast. Over time, people began using the expression to describe moving quickly even without a car.

Examples of Burn Rubber

Define burning rubberThis example shows two women discussing whether or not they have enough time to get lunch while working during a busy day.

Bella: I’m hungry. I wish we had time for lunch.

Hannah: If you’re hungry, then we should just go grab something quick to eat. 

Bella: Well, it’s so busy. I’m not sure we have enough time.

Hannah: Still, you have to eat! If we go really quickly it will be fine. Anyway, you’ll work faster if you aren’t hungry.

Bella: I guess that’s true.

Hannah: Okay, let’s go! We’ll burn rubber and get there and back in 15 minutes!

 Meaning of burn rubberThe following example shows two college students who just accidentally broke something.

Hanh: What’s the matter, Zhongyi? You look upset.

Zhongyi: Shh! We need to get out of this library right away.

Hanh: Really? Why?

Zhongyi: I was reading one of those really old books that isn’t allowed to leave the library. I swear I was being really careful, but I accidentally ripped a page right out of the book. We’ve got to get out of here before they realize it was me! I don’t have the money to pay for that expensive book.

Hanh: I’m sure they would make you pay. It was an accident.

Zhongyi: Maybe not, but let’s burn rubber anyway. I don’t want to risk it.

Hanh: You go. I’ll just let them know about the damage, but I won’t tell them it was you.

More Examples

The excerpt is from an article about the pros and cons of different cars.

  • What’s better than having an all-purpose, off-roading, vehicle that’s great no matter the weather? Having all of the above and the ability to burn rubber when it’s time to put the pedal to the metal. Houston Chronicle

The second example is about a car that can accelerate very quickly.

  • Watch this vehicle hit 110 miles per hour in a quarter mile in 12.4 seconds, burn rubber, then face off – quite well, as a matter of fact –  with a Dodge Hellcat on the dragstrip. –Houston Chronicle


The phrase burn rubber describes someone who is moving very quickly, often in a car.