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delved; delving

intransitive verb

: to dig or labor with or as if with a spade
delved into her handbag in search of a pen
: to make a careful or detailed search for information
delved into the past
: to examine a subject in detail
the book delves into the latest research
won't delve into her reason for leaving
delver noun


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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 traces to the early Old English word delfan and is related to the Old High German word telban, meaning "to dig." For centuries, there was only delving—no digging—because dig didn't exist until much later; it appears in early Middle English. 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, dig was the term for working with a mattock (a tool similar to an adze or a pick), while delve was reserved for work done using a spade.

Example Sentences

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
Along with those conversations, the festival has expanded its program of workshops for Egyptian filmmakers, offering the local industry practical tools that delve deeper into craft than the public sessions. Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 14 Nov. 2022 The board, which wants to delve deeper into all state agency contracting procedures — particularly those involving the Connecticut Port Authority and an offshore wind farm near New London — expects to ramp up activities this winter, Fox insisted. Keith M. Phaneuf, Hartford Courant, 20 Oct. 2022 In something of a rarity, this comedy drama will delve into the drag king world, following an aspiring star who comes to Las Vegas to reconnect with her father and make her debut performance. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Oct. 2022 But Prince Durin and his wife Disa want to delve deeper—despite the perils—in order to help their friend Elrond, who says the mithril is the only thing that will save the elves, whose light is fading and otherwise must leave Middle-earth. Eliana Dockterman, Time, 14 Oct. 2022 The series will delve into issues outside the ivory tower as well, with Mirielle Enos playing Odenkirk's onscreen wife and Olivia Scott Welch as his adult daughter. Dan Snierson,, 28 Sep. 2022 The previous documents delve into extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and torture in Venezuela, as well as the justice system’s response to such violations. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 21 Sep. 2022 The book could delve further into the strategic consequences of China's headlong embrace of surveillance technologies. Steven Feldstein, The Courier-Journal, 14 Sep. 2022 Besides succession, Mukesh Ambani may also delve into Jio’s 5G plan for India and unveil his vision to unlock his telecom arm’s value by listing it on the stock exchange. Niharika Sharma, Quartz, 28 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


Verb and Noun

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

First Known Use


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near delve

Cite this Entry

“Delve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



delved; delving
: to dig or labor with a spade
: to make a careful or thorough search for information
delver noun

More from Merriam-Webster on delve

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