Definition of delve in English:



  • 1Reach inside a receptacle and search for something.

    ‘she delved in her pocket’
    • ‘While I was thinking of a new subject for my column, I was delving into my handbag searching for a pen, when suddenly the idea came to me, ‘the handbag’.’
    • ‘Eagerly, her free hand, pouch set aside, delved in to count her treasure.’
    • ‘Then he prised open my mouth and delved in with a metal stick while the nurse fed a miniature sprinkler system down my gullet.’
    • ‘Paul delves into rock-pools in search of crabs and Helen accidentally steps into a rock pool and gets wet feet.’
    • ‘Despite my silence, she could tell I didn't quite agree with her, and delved inside her layers of clothing and pulled out a crumpled photograph.’
    • ‘Pretty soon, I was able to close my eyes and delve inside myself, to search for my core of power hidden within my inner being.’
    • ‘Today on the program we delve inside the minds of criminal defence lawyers; how do they see their role, and how do they defend clients they suspect are guilty?’
    • ‘The robot has tiny arms that can reach in between ribs and delve into the heart, and it apparently even sews stitches more smoothly than a person.’
    • ‘The boy delved in his trouser pockets and his face fell.’
    • ‘At great personal risk I delved in among the spines today but, apart from last year's abandoned nest, there was nothing.’
    • ‘One of them sought to rob me, zipping open a compartment in the briefcase I was carrying and delving inside for what he could steal.’
    • ‘She delved inside the bag and felt the miniscule amount of produce, now blackened by the heat.’
    • ‘She delved in a drawer and produced a Duracell battery.’
    • ‘Jo then delved in to the toy box and brought out a farmyard set before passing round a bag of plastic animals for the youngsters to pull out and identify.’
    • ‘He told us that, despite his full support for using an advanced machine to delve inside a mummy and uncover its secrets, the project had lost its way and its credibility.’
    • ‘She reached out to him and her hand delved into his pocket.’
    • ‘Ian took his wallet from his pocket, delved in his pay packet and removed a small handful of silver.’
    rummage, rummage about in, rummage around in, rummage round in, hunt through, scrabble about in, scrabble around in, root about in, root around in, ferret, ferret about in, ferret around in, fish about in, fish around in, poke about in, poke around in, dig in, grub about in, grub around in, go through, burrow in
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    1. 1.1Research or make painstaking enquiries into something.
      ‘the society is determined to delve deeper into the matter’
      • ‘She delved into the transcript with a vengeance, searching for further twists in Four Corners' fuzzy skein of truth.’
      • ‘Along with that, the show has two researchers delving into all the newspaper periodicals that are sent in.’
      • ‘Researchers have been delving into the history of the royal menagerie, using animal remains to reveal the secrets of medieval lions once locked up in the Tower.’
      • ‘Those serious about magick will eventually start finding that the fluffy books don't delve deep enough and this will motivate them to search for deeper texts on the subject.’
      • ‘So the former researcher spent months delving into the science to figure out what went wrong.’
      • ‘Piecing the picture together requires delving into various academic, government and NGO sources - some of which can be found on the Internet.’
      • ‘My friend - no ordinary being - a doctor by profession, a compassionate man by nature, decided he had to delve into the world of alternate healing to reach out to his fellow brethren.’
      • ‘I was confused and delved into my own research on the matter.’
      • ‘Detectives are continuing to delve into the experienced skydiver's background in their search for a motive for the murder.’
      • ‘Ethnographic research delves into the everyday lives of consumers to go beyond what they say - and record what they do.’
      • ‘The young lady in question has asked protection from local authorities to protect her from journalistic assault by the lurid press that are delving into her background.’
      • ‘And as the family of the man paid tribute to a ‘wonderful son and brother’, detectives began delving into the popular young man's background for a possible motive to murder.’
      • ‘Once you start delving into corruption in sport, it's difficult to know where to draw the line.’
      • ‘To start figuring out how the virus will transform wildlife of the Americas, researchers have been delving into the details of how animals pick up the virus.’
      • ‘Then again, whenever he tried to delve into his own background history, something inside of him would be fraught with stress and discomfort.’
      • ‘The authors delve into some research prototypes on presence management and detection.’
      • ‘If I were researching, I would need to know what source materials could offer before I delved in - they may not be wholly relevant to the subject.’
      • ‘I delved into the deepest recesses of the Net in search of everything I desired.’
      • ‘It takes considerable clarity of purpose to delve beyond mythic images and reach the primordial roots.’
      • ‘His research delves into matroidal structures, a concept based on graphs and matrices and its applications.’
      investigate, conduct investigations into, make enquiries into, enquire into, probe, examine, explore, research, study, look into, go into
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  • 2archaic Dig; excavate.

    ‘when Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’
    [with object] ‘the approach from the surface above had awed her, so hugely delved were the tunnels’
    • ‘He turned the corner and still the tunnel delved deeper into the rock.’
    • ‘They rounded another corner, careful not to brush up against the slime-covered wall and descended down another tunnel, delving deeper underground.’
    • ‘Although the economy as a set of material practices has existed ever since ‘Adam delved and Eve span,’ it was not conceptualized as separate until about 300 years ago.’
    • ‘There were four burly men at the table, miners by the look of them, men who delved in the earth.’
    • ‘He knew not if she wanted him to delve into the tunnels once more or to stay put.’


Old English delfan ‘dig’, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch delven.