\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

There will be plenty of time to delve deeper into the science in future installments though. New York Times, "The Science (and the Scientists) Behind ‘Ant-Man’," 6 July 2018 Schechter, who has authored several historical true crime novels, delves deep into the life of one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. Dawn Mitchell, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana serial killer Belle Gunness and her 'murder farm' being developed into TV series," 27 June 2018 The new study, published Wednesday in Nature, builds on these findings to delve deeper into the brain’s taste circuitry. Simon Makin, Scientific American, "A Matter of Taste: Can a Sweet Tooth Be Switched Off in the Brain?," 30 May 2018 His father and brother go to jail, and Biosah delves deeper into life as a dealer. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "Rapper Maxo Kream opens up on "Punken"," 21 Mar. 2018 The movement and its momentum inspired me to delve more into it, explore what that was like, and how that impacted me. Robert Steiner,, "Scholastic Art & Writing winners explore imagination — and the world," 16 Mar. 2018 Starr was delving into Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Lewinsky. Ann E. Marimow, The Seattle Times, "From Clinton to Trump: How Kavanaugh navigated through some of Washington’s biggest scandals," 9 July 2018 And the show never really delves deeply into political viewers. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Tim Allen's 'Last Man Standing' relaunch was 'emboldened' by 'Roseanne' success, not politics, say Fox execs," 14 May 2018 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

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

12 Oct 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).


to reject or criticize sharply

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