\ 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

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

The novel is Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Press, $24.95), in which a Philadelphia architect delves into the past to find the meaning of his craft. John Timpane,, "Nathaniel Popkin is a Philly author with a rare double play - two new books at once," 11 July 2018 This is especially true when the series delves into Camille’s bizarre family life, headed by her monstrous mother, a hog-farm heiress named Adora (Patricia Clarkson, ready for her close-up). Sonia Saraiya, HWD, "Sharp Objects Is Stunning, Raw, and Violently Beautiful," 5 July 2018 When hitters get the attention of opponents by doing damage over a season, pitchers start working them differently the next season, delving deeper into scouting reports to find weaknesses. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Haudricourt: Numbers tell the story of the Brewers' offensive ups and downs," 22 June 2018 Further Reading Separately, accident investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board are delving into how a single, fast-rotating blade broke off inside the engine on Southwest Flight 1380, the result of a gradual weakening of the metal. Andy Pasztor, WSJ, "FAA Expands Engine Checks After Southwest Accident," 21 June 2018 The book could have risked becoming unwieldy, but Arnold has crafted a thrilling page-turner while delving into topics that often bypass Brazil’s mainstream media. Bruno Garcez, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘The Third Bank of the River,’ by Chris Feliciano Arnold," 14 June 2018 These tie-ins let creators delve into Delos’ inner workings and enhance the audience’s understanding of the universe. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "Westworld’s digital marketing is giving fans sneak peeks at the show’s biggest secrets," 24 May 2018 The new clip started out sweet, with a beautiful kiss (that took some incredible animation skills to pull off and caused some censorship controversies for Disney) before delving deep into how the game will actually play. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "The 10 biggest stories of E3 2018," 15 June 2018 After delving into her own biography, it’s time for some role-playing. Benjamin Oreskes,, "Many people work hard to avoid the homeless. These volunteers embrace them," 7 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

14 Sep 2018

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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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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 setting in which something occurs

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