\ 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

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

But the probe, which Tony first reported last week, could delve into a number of other concerns state lawmakers have about the tech giant, including search rankings and the company's consumer privacy practices, Tony reports. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Here's how Apple could get drawn into Washington's antitrust firestorm," 10 Sep. 2019 Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft, a writer and historian and MIT visiting scholar in anthropology, spent five years researching and delving into these questions, and more., "The author of ‘Meat Planet’ is coming to Cambridge - The Boston Globe," 10 Sep. 2019 Through much of the narrative, Pollack refers to the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, by only his court case number: 18-1958, until delving into his schooling. Megan O'matz,, "Andrew Pollack’s new book searches for answers about why his daughter died in Parkland," 10 Sep. 2019 With her help, Rountree delved into classical repertoire and conducted imaginary orchestras in silence in an empty Walt Disney Concert Hall. Catherine Womack, La Cañada Valley Sun, "Christopher Rountree’s pursuit of music magic inspired by Descanso Gardens," 6 Sep. 2019 This one definitely goes to 11: Two teenage rocker dudes – who yearn to add some excitement to their lives – delve into black magic and accidentally conjure a demonic entity known as The Blind One. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "The 50 best horror movies of the 21st century, definitively ranked," 6 Sep. 2019 While some institutions delve into their own rich catalogs, other projects and companies illuminate the past by recasting seminal works. Andrew Gilbert, The Mercury News, "Fall dance 2019: Legendary works on tap in Bay Area," 6 Sep. 2019 The theater’s next performance, for example, explores the concept of connection through spiderwebs and delves into people’s common histories. Paula Akakpo / Math And Science Academy, Twin Cities, "ThreeSixty Journalism: Social justice dance: a healing experience," 31 Aug. 2019 Many researchers have assumed that an organism’s microbiome is somehow seeded from the environment, but few had delved into the specifics. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "No microbiome is an island, unprecedented survey of Hawaiian valley reveals," 28 Aug. 2019

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

14 Sep 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 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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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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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