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delved; delving

intransitive verb

: to dig or labor with or as if with a spade
delved into her handbag in search of a pen
: to make a careful or detailed search for information
delved into the past
: to examine a subject in detail
the book delves into the latest research
won't delve into her reason for leaving
delver noun


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Did you know?

Digging Up the History of Delve

We must dig deep into the English language's past to find the origins of delve. The verb traces to the early Old English word delfan and is related to the Old High German word telban, meaning "to dig." For centuries, there was only delving—no digging—because dig didn't exist until much later; it appears in early Middle English. Is the phrase "dig and delve" (as in the line "eleven, twelve, dig and delve," from the nursery rhyme that begins "one, two, buckle my shoe") redundant? Not necessarily. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in some local uses, dig was the term for working with a mattock (a tool similar to an adze or a pick), while delve was reserved for work done using a spade.

Example Sentences

Verb He tried to delve inside his memory for clues about what had happened. Noun a poem in which a medieval knight encounters a mysterious beauty in a darkened delve
Recent Examples on the Web
Visitors can lean into D.C.'s history by touring the famous monuments on the National Mall and delve into worlds of dinosaurs, art history, and the like in any of Smithsonian's 21 museums. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 17 May 2023 This exhibit delves into tides, types of surf breaks, wave energy and surf conditions along with topics subjects as care of the oceans. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 May 2023 Which only meant more time to actually delve into the topics on my mind, and work through them. Katherine Singh,, 11 May 2023 The probe will also delve into ongoing patterns and practices within the East Bay police department related to excessive use of force and the use of police dogs, Bonta said. Annie Vainshtein, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 May 2023 As newlywed daughter Aki delves into the slaying of an elder, Hirahara humanizes the struggles of Japanese Americans rebuilding their lives from scratch. Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, 10 May 2023 Does delving back into this period give you a new perspective on the era? Adam Rathe, Town & Country, 9 May 2023 Other parts of this series examine how pharmaceutical makers are promoting a new message about obesity; assess attempts to personalize obesity treatment; explain the origins of a flawed weight metric, the body mass index; and delve into the debate over new childhood obesity guidelines. Ambar Castillo, STAT, 8 May 2023 Featuring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, the film delves into the unnerving tale of Marion Crane, a woman who finds herself at the foreboding Bates Motel. Travis Bean, Forbes, 6 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'delve.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Old English delfan; akin to Old High German telban to dig

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of delve was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near delve

Cite this Entry

“Delve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


delved; delving
: to dig or labor with a spade
: to make a careful or thorough search for information
delver noun

More from Merriam-Webster on delve

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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