Definition of grovel in US English:



[no object]
  • 1Lie or crawl abjectly on the ground with one's face downward.

    ‘she was groveling on the floor in fear’
    • ‘This requires flexibility and upper-body strength, neither of which I had, and it was generally humiliating, especially when we had to grovel on the ground doing ‘power moves’.’
    • ‘She saw him grovel on the floor, begging for mercy.’
    • ‘Of course, I meant that you should have grovelled far more at Andrea's feet, and made far more clear your ‘Junior Partner’ status.’
    • ‘He gasped as he saw her, and fell to the ground, groveling at her feet, pleading with her.’
    • ‘He held his hands to his face and began to grovel towards nothing, his elbows resting on the grainy ground, tears clotting the soft brine.’
    • ‘If they want me to get down and grovel on the floor, no.’
    • ‘I knocked over the bowl with all the beads in it and spent fifteen minutes grovelling on my hands and knees on the living room carpet painstakingly picking them up again.’
    • ‘In Shackleton's own words, ‘We had suffered, starved and triumphed, grovelled down yet grasped at glory.’’
    • ‘There was no strength left for crawling or grovelling, let alone swimming.’
    • ‘Incidentally, the ancient Maya had a fairly advanced understanding of astronomy - so there's some question as to whether they would have grovelled in front an eclipse.’
    crawl, creep, cringe, crouch, prostrate oneself, kneel, fall on one's knees
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Act in an obsequious way in order to obtain someone's forgiveness or favor.
      ‘everyone expected me to grovel with gratitude’
      • ‘You groveled to him, so let him have you.’
      • ‘And after the attacks on her grow worse they experience mixed emotions as Jack grovels and pleads with her not to go when finally she decides she has had enough and announces she is leaving.’
      • ‘I begged and groveled and groveled and begged.’
      • ‘Other ordinaries say they will respond only on the basis of individual need; thus, if such a resigned priest languishes in abject poverty or grovels fittingly, he may receive some reluctant beneficence.’
      • ‘Ed tried to wriggle and in the end started grovelling to Neil, that he was probably the best informed political journalist on the economy.’
      • ‘However, it sometimes seems as though a mere public reconsideration is not enough: we instead demand an abject, groveling apology and a confession that those who opposed the war were right about every last thing.’
      • ‘I remembered how, as a younger man, I would never have groveled or whined for any reason.’
      • ‘An employee who forgot their password to log in to the corporate network would probably get a withering look from the support staff as they grovelled to have it reset.’
      • ‘He brags about how valued he is at school to impress a woman, then grovels to have his old job back.’
      • ‘Resilient than rubber, more sensitive than the world's best radar system and forever grovelling at the boss' feet, these modern Neros fiddle while the office burns.’
      • ‘We resolved to show him and everyone else that the days for grovelling were over.’
      • ‘In yet another print, he grovels avariciously for a pittance at the feet of Prime Minister Pitt as the latter grinds John Bull through a mincing machine to produce gold coins.’
      • ‘They groveled to the females before every song and it was just a lame rock performance.’
      • ‘Once he'd got the grovelling out of the way he was transformed.’
      • ‘In this respect he is indeed just like her: courageous and unbending when facing up to the weak, the workers and the poor; grovelling and sycophantic to the rich, the strong and the powerful.’
      • ‘In a sickening display of abject groveling he declared: ‘My behavior on this occasion was unacceptable and irresponsible.’’
      • ‘Obviously a good grovel is as necessary today as it was in the days of serfs.’
      • ‘Each year at harvest, the prince hosts a feast for the noblemen of the countryside, while the peasants who farm his land grovel in abject poverty.’
      • ‘As a depiction of Labor policy, it represents one of the more sniveling grovels in recent memory.’
      • ‘They're not servile and grovelling like the English are.’
      behave obsequiously, be obsequious, be servile, be sycophantic, fawn, kowtow, bow and scrape, toady, truckle, abase oneself, humble oneself, prostrate oneself
      View synonyms


Middle English: back-formation from the obsolete adverb grovelling, from obsolete groof, grufe ‘the face or front’ (in the phrase on grufe, from Old Norse á grúfu ‘face downwards’) + the suffix -ling.