from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To search deeply and laboriously: delved into the court records.
  • intransitive v. To dig the ground, as with a spade.
  • transitive v. Archaic To dig (ground) with a spade.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To dig the ground, especially with a shovel.
  • v. To search thoroughly and carefully for information, research, dig into, penetrate, fathom, trace out
  • v. To dig, to excavate.
  • n. A pit or den.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A place dug; a pit; a ditch; a den; a cave.
  • intransitive v. To dig or labor with a spade, or as with a spade; to labor as a drudge.
  • transitive v. To dig; to open (the ground) as with a spade.
  • transitive v. To dig into; to penetrate; to trace out; to fathom.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To dig; turn up or excavate with a spade or some other tool.
  • To bury.
  • To practise digging; labor with the spade.
  • Figuratively, to carry on laborious or continued research or investigation, as one digging for hidden treasure.
  • n. A place dug or hollowed out; a pitfall; a ditch; a den; a cave.
  • n. That which is dug out: as, a delve of coals (a certain quantity of coal dug from a mine).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. turn up, loosen, or remove earth


Middle English delven, to dig, from Old English delfan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English delven, delfan ("to dig, examine, bury, imbed, implant"), from Old English delfan ("to dig, dig out, burrow, bury"), from Proto-Germanic *delbanan, from Proto-Indo-European *dʰelbʰ- (“to dig”). (Wiktionary)



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  • I absolutely abominate this word when used in the sense of "inquire into or learn about". Such a pretentious metaphor!

    November 2, 2010