\ ˈdelv How to pronounce delve (audio) \
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

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

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: Verb Rollins didn’t delve into the derogatory and racist text messages exchanged between Fesser’s old boss and Reeves before Fesser’s arrest, OIR Group’s report said. oregonlive, "West Linn’s insurer failed city in defense of Michael Fesser’s wrongful arrest suit, outside consultants said," 22 Dec. 2020 Some employees argue the investigation didn't delve into the circumstances around Mack's death and say the county should publicly acknowledge its role in what happened. Laura Ungar, Star Tribune, "County moves to protect health staff after deadly outbreak," 4 Dec. 2020 The first lady’s speech will not delve deeply into policy details. Washington Post, "Melania Trump is about to give her biggest speech in four years. The Trump campaign hopes she can be its secret weapon.," 25 Aug. 2020 Filmmakers who delve into the lives of public figures, whose every step is already exhaustively examined, aim to reveal the real person in front of the lens. Carita Rizzo, The Hollywood Reporter, "Capturing Michelle Obama, Michael Jordan and Hillary Clinton: "I Had to Move Past My Own Intimidation"," 6 Aug. 2020 Last month, Bullard was sworn in as deputy clerk of White Lake Township, a role that Kowall said his friend was excited to delve into. Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press, "Oakland County Republican leader Bill Bullard dies of COVID-19 complications, cancer," 19 Dec. 2020 Meanwhile, the heat probe, about the length of a paper towel tube, is stuck in soil that compacted instead of crumbling as the rod tried to delve in. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Mars lander spots deep layers beneath the surface, offering clues to the planet’s formation," 15 Dec. 2020 Muilenburg, in a brief conversation, kept the focus on Monarch’s potential, while politely declining to delve into the turbulent close to his stint at Boeing. Julie Johnsson,, "Ousted Boeing CEO now a consultant for 35-employee startup that sells self-driving electric tractors," 14 Dec. 2020 The hearing is expected to delve into his treatment at the hospital, and include details about his medical and psychological health. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "DA’s Office: Judge closes another hearing for sexually violent predator," 10 Dec. 2020

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

Verb and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for delve

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for delve

Last Updated

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Delve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for delve


How to pronounce delve (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of delve

: to search for information about something
chiefly British : to reach into a bag, container, etc., in order to find something


\ ˈdelv How to pronounce delve (audio) \
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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Comments on delve

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