spade·​work | \ ˈspād-ˌwərk How to pronounce spadework (audio) \

Definition of spadework

1 : work done with a spade
2 : the hard plain preliminary drudgery in an undertaking

Examples of spadework in a Sentence

She had her assistants do the spadework in preparation for the trial.
Recent Examples on the Web That spadework laid the groundwork for the current suit. Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, "Gov. Greg Abbott vows Texas will do ‘exactly’ what federal judge requires on foster care," 3 Feb. 2021 In recent decades, legal conservatives have reaped the rewards of the spadework done by this older generation of academic political philosophers. Peter Hammond Schwartz, The New Republic, "Originalism Is Dead. Long Live Catholic Natural Law.," 3 Feb. 2021 Intellectual spadework began in the 1940s and ’50s. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Why the Federalist Society and Other Institutions Matter," 28 Sep. 2020 First, it was meant to build on Elizabeth Warren’s reputation as an academic who does the intellectual spadework. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Sell Us a Bridge to Nowhere," 9 Dec. 2019 Democratic voters remain more politically engaged than Republican voters on several dimensions — including their willingness to do the spadework of an election campaign. John Sides, Washington Post, "New election poll shows Democratic voters are more engaged and Democratic House incumbents more popular," 13 June 2018 That triumph only occurred after years of diplomatic spadework, including a secret visit by Henry A. Kissinger to China a year earlier. Eli Stokols,, "Summits are tricky: Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan each learned the hard way," 9 June 2018 The concern among the policy experts is that there has been so little of the kind of diplomatic spadework that has led to past breakthroughs on similarly complex issues – for instance, President Richard Nixon’s 1972 opening to China. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why the US undervalues nuts and bolts diplomacy at its peril," 2 Apr. 2018 Diplomats are appalled that Trump has done the whole thing backwards: Leaders usually meet at the end of a painstaking diplomatic process, coming together at the top of the mountain of spadework done by armies of anonymous bureaucrats. Ryu Spaeth, The New Republic, "The Madman Summit," 9 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spadework.' 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 spadework

1778, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spadework

Time Traveler for spadework

Time Traveler

The first known use of spadework was in 1778

See more words from the same year

Statistics for spadework

Cite this Entry

“Spadework.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for spadework



English Language Learners Definition of spadework

: difficult work that is done especially to prepare for something

More from Merriam-Webster on spadework

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spadework

Comments on spadework

What made you want to look up spadework? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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