Definition of delve
- delved into her handbag in search of a pen
- delved into the past
- the book delves into the latest research
- won't delve into her reason for leaving
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He tried to delve inside his memory for clues about what had happened.
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We must dig deep into the English language's past to find the origins of "delve." The verb originated in 9th century Old English as "delfan" and is related to the Old High German word telban, meaning "dig." For some 400 years, there was only delving - no digging - because "dig" didn't exist until the 13th century. 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 as recently as the late 19th century, "dig" was the term for working with a mattock (a tool similar to an adze or a pick), while "delve" was reserved for using a spade.
First Known Use: before 12th centurySee Words from the same year
a poem in which a medieval knight encounters a mysterious beauty in a darkened delve
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