Grub Street

\ ˈgrəb- How to pronounce Grub Street (audio) \

Definition of Grub Street

: the world or category of needy literary hacks

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The original Grub Street was an address in London (it was renamed Milton Street in 1830) described by Dr. Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of the English Language as "much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems." The term was applied figuratively to the dog-eat-dog world of pens-for-hire as early as 1630, and not surprisingly it became the subject of several novels. Writer Tobias Smollett, all too familiar with hackwork himself, described a Grub Street dinner party in his novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771). And the allusion to Grub Street still packed a punch in 1891 when George Gissing chose New Grub Street as the title of his realistic novel about intrigues of the Victorian literary world.

First Known Use of Grub Street

1630, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Grub Street

Grub Street, London, formerly inhabited by literary hacks

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The first known use of Grub Street was in 1630

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Cite this Entry

“Grub Street.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

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