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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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Did you know?

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 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. Given dig and delve’s overlapping meanings today, 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. Although delve has a history of use for literal digging, nowadays the term is often applied to carefully researching or examining something, as in “delving into the past.”

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
Over the next few weeks, the Israeli authorities questioned Professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian for more than 17 hours in several lengthy sessions, delving into her books and views on a variety of subjects, according to her lawyers. Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, New York Times, 12 June 2024 Columnist Dan Bice delves into the details in his latest column. Steven Martinez, Journal Sentinel, 11 June 2024 The episode will delve deeper into the murders with interviews of others involved in the case. Madison Sikes, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7 June 2024 Another option, Tuscan Organic Tours, offers immersive daylong experiences that delve into wine and oil but also other rich agricultural offerings. Christine Chitnis, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for delve 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'delve.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 20 Jun. 2024.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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