Grub Street

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

Definition of Grub Street

: the world or category of needy literary hacks

Did You Know?

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Grub Street

Time Traveler for Grub Street

Time Traveler

The first known use of Grub Street was in 1630

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about Grub Street

Statistics for Grub Street

Cite this Entry

“Grub Street.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Comments on Grub Street

What made you want to look up Grub Street? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!