\ 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)


Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from delve


delver noun

Synonyms for delve

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

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: Verb Over three days of arguments, Democrats warned that the senators will live to regret not delving deeper into Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Mary Clare Jalonick, Anchorage Daily News, "GOP shows little desire for witnesses ahead of critical impeachment trial vote," 24 Jan. 2020 Reporter Megan Cassidy examines the issue after talking to UC Berkeley Law professor Rebecca Wexler and other experts and delving deep into the case of one U.S. resident accused of having ties to ISIS. Jason W. Lloren,, "Bay Briefing: Are Facebook and Twitter helping or hurting justice?," 21 Jan. 2020 Windows 10 Build 19546 includes a special Graphing Mode for Windows Calculator, as well as a new Indexer Diagnostics app for delving a bit deeper into what Windows is making searchable on your PC. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "New Windows 10 Insider build 19546 adds a nifty graphing calculator," 16 Jan. 2020 Competition there is building to record levels as Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, prepares to go live with JioMart and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart Online Services Pvt delves deeper into the countryside. Saritha Rai, Fortune, "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to Face Protests From ‘Enraged’ Local Merchants During India Visit," 13 Jan. 2020 Fabiana Filippi is part of a growing cadre of luxury brands who have rebelled against the incessant social media cycle and the demands of overnight trends by doubling down on their roots and delving deeper into their identity. Olivia Martin, Town & Country, "Italian Fashion House Fabiana Filippi is Not Interested in Trends," 13 Aug. 2019 To delve deeper into state flag history, check out more origin stories here. Erin Davis And Brandon Griggs, CNN, "Here are 5 ways to show your patriotism on Flag Day 2019," 14 June 2019 Museums are mounting exhibitions of his sketches, and scholars are publishing new analyses, delving ever deeper into the full spectrum of his creations. Claudia Kalb, National Geographic, "Why Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliance endures, 500 years after his death," 12 June 2019 Situated in an airy wilderness in the northwest sector of Saguaro National Park, Panther Peak Wash Trail delves into an unusual niche of the park’s varied eco-zones. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Every great thing about the Sonoran Desert is on display in this easy hike," 15 Jan. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about delve

Time Traveler for delve

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about delve

Statistics for delve

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Delve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for delve


How to pronounce delve (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on delve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for delve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!