\ˈdelv \
delved; delving

Definition of delve 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to dig or labor with or as if with a spade delved into her handbag in search of a pen

2a : to make a careful or detailed search for information delved into the past

b : to examine a subject in detail the book delves into the latest research won't delve into her reason for leaving



Definition of delve (Entry 2 of 2)


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Other Words from delve


delver noun

Synonyms for delve

Synonyms: Noun

antre, cave, cavern, grot, grotto

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Digging Up the History of Delve


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.

Examples of delve in a Sentence


He tried to delve inside his memory for clues about what had happened.


a poem in which a medieval knight encounters a mysterious beauty in a darkened delve

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Meredith Talusan Meredith Talusan, a contributing editor at Them, is a journalist and author of the forthcoming memoir Fairest, which delves into her experiences as an albino first-generation Filipino-American. Noor Brara, Vogue, "9 Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Writers You Should Know," 30 Oct. 2018 Perhaps a persona that delves into political commentary is in order. Alessandra Rincón, Billboard, "5 Things We Want From Twenty One Pilots' New Album," 6 July 2018 Édgar Ramírez will play Versace in the upcoming Season 2 0f American Crime Story, which will delve into the investigation before and after Gianni Versace's murder by Andrew Cunanan. Chanel Vargas, Town & Country, "Here's How Much Gianni Versace Would Be Worth if He Were Still Alive Today," 21 Dec. 2017 Fashion brand Proenza Schouler is delving further into the beauty world. Kathleen Hou, The Cut, "Lancôme’s Next Collaboration Is With Proenza Schouler," 14 May 2018 The case delved into history beyond Baltimore and, indeed, modern times, to explore the liability a governing entity has to victims of crime. Jean Marbella,, "Question of responsibility for Baltimore riot damage spans 1968 and 2015 — and careers of notable legal family," 27 Apr. 2018 Turner didn’t delve too deeply into personnel during his 20-minute teleconference. Joseph Person, charlotteobserver, "What does Norv Turner see in Panthers? Familiarity ... and a chance to win Super Bowl," 23 Jan. 2018 Ohio State University folklorist Dorothy Noyes is delighted to delve into the history of these whimsical festival practices. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian, "For Hundreds of Years, Papier-Mâché Has Lent a Surreal Face to Catalan Culture," 3 July 2018 For those looking to delve into a more serious summer of boating, the Philadelphia Canoe Club can serve as an excellent place to start. Grace Dickinson,, "Where to rent and use kayaks and canoes in and near Philadelphia," 22 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'delve.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of delve


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for delve


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


see delve entry 1

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Statistics for delve

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for delve

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

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More Definitions for delve



English Language Learners Definition of delve

: to search for information about something

: to reach into a bag, container, etc., in order to find something


\ˈdelv \
delved; delving

Kids Definition of delve

1 : to dig or work hard with or as if with a shovel

2 : to work hard looking for information

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More from Merriam-Webster on delve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with delve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for delve

Spanish Central: Translation of delve

Nglish: Translation of delve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of delve for Arabic Speakers

Comments on delve

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


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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