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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 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. Given dig and delve’s overlapping meanings today, 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. Although delve has a history of use for literal digging, nowadays the term is often applied to carefully researching or examining something, as in “delving into the past.”

Examples of delve in a Sentence

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
Lie to Fly delves into the case of Joseph Emerson, an off-duty pilot who’s accused of trying to crash an Alaska Airlines flight in October 2023, as well as a movement to reform FAA rules about pilots’ mental health. Rick Porter, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 July 2024 Gad's new memoir will delve into his life in full — and tells his story in his own words. Carly Tagen-Dye, Peoplemag, 9 July 2024 Nicole is part of a team of Statesman journalists who have delved into these issues in Trash Troubles, an ongoing 2024 series on recycling, waste management and the impact on the environment in Boise and the Treasure Valley. Idaho Statesman, 9 July 2024 Newson’s arrest warrant, however, was penned by a homicide detective — and delves into developments in the probe, including conflicting statements made by one of the Melvins’ granddaughters. Grethel Aguila, Miami Herald, 3 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for delve 

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 14 Jul. 2024.

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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