\ 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

One way to do that is to delve into a world that attracts millions of people. Stephan Wiebe, Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage gamer receives ‘esports’ scholarship to play video game in college," 20 May 2017 Returning to her alma mater at the University of Louisville, Haspel delved into some of the United States' toughest challenges around the world. Bruce Schreiner, Fox News, "CIA director: Agency keenly focused on nation state rivals," 24 Sep. 2018 But scientists are delving into aging on a molecular level, with exciting potential for all of us. Good Housekeeping, "Unlocking Your Body’s Potential to Live Healthier, Longer," 12 June 2018 The governor's attorneys delved into the woman's tumultuous relationship with her now ex-husband. Jason Hancock, kansascity, "Missouri lawmakers read, aloud, hours of testimony by woman in Greitens case | The Kansas City Star," 22 May 2018 Her half- and full-day introductory workshops delve into history, laws, equipment, biology and expectations involved in falconry. Vincent Crampton,, "Explore Florida's Suwannee County: Experience an ancient hunting art at International Falconry Academy," 6 May 2018 The drama, which delves deep into the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (aka Christopher Wallace), is set to launch Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Bryn Elise Sandberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "USA's 'Unsolved' Aims to "Humanize" Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.," 9 Jan. 2018 For example, the brand recently delved into makeup, launching its first-ever highlighting trio called GlamPowder this past June, which retails for [$42 on]. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "GlamGlow to Launch TropicalCleanse Daily Exfoliating Cleanser This Fall," 27 Aug. 2018 The special will delve deeply into the life of Rader, who posed as a seemingly ordinary neighbor by day, but brutally killed by night. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "BTK killer Dennis Rader tells all in unheard interview for doc: 'It's a demon that's within me'," 21 Aug. 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

Verb and Noun

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

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Statistics for delve

Last Updated

16 Feb 2019

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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
chiefly British : 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

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esteemed in general opinion

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