dig in

verb (used without object), dug or (Archaic) digged, dig·ging.

  1. to break up, turn over, or remove earth, sand, etc., as with a shovel, spade, bulldozer, or claw; make an excavation.
  2. to make one’s way or work by or as by removing or turning over material: to dig through the files.

verb (used with object), dug or (Archaic) digged, dig·ging.

  1. to break up, turn over, or loosen (earth, sand, etc.), as with a shovel, spade, or bulldozer (often followed by up).
  2. to form or excavate (a hole, tunnel, etc.) by removing material.
  3. to unearth, obtain, or remove by digging (often followed by up or out).
  4. to find or discover by effort or search.
  5. to poke, thrust, or force (usually followed by in or into): He dug his heel into the ground.


  1. thrust; poke: He gave me a dig in the ribs with his elbow.
  2. a cutting, sarcastic remark.
  3. an archaeological site undergoing excavation.
  4. digs, Informal. living quarters; lodgings.

Verb Phrases

  1. dig in,
    1. to dig trenches, as in order to defend a position in battle.
    2. to maintain one’s opinion or position.
    3. to start eating.
  2. dig into, Informal. to attack, work, or apply oneself voraciously, vigorously, or energetically: to dig into one’s work; to dig into a meal.
  3. dig out,
    1. to remove earth or debris from by digging.
    2. to hollow out by digging.
    3. to find by searching: to dig out facts for a term paper.
  4. dig up,
    1. to discover in the course of digging.
    2. to locate; find: to dig up information.

verb (adverb)

  1. military to create (a defensive position) by digging foxholes, trenches, etc
  2. informal to entrench (oneself) firmly
  3. (intr) informal to defend or maintain a position firmly, as in an argument
  4. (intr) informal to begin vigorously to eatdon’t wait, just dig in
  5. dig one’s heels in informal to refuse stubbornly to move or be persuaded


  1. NZ informal short for Digger (def. 1)

verb digs, digging or dug

  1. (when tr, often foll by up) to cut into, break up, and turn over or remove (earth, soil, etc), esp with a spade
  2. to form or excavate (a hole, tunnel, passage, etc) by digging, usually with an implement or (of animals) with feet, claws, etcto dig a tunnel
  3. (often foll by through) to make or force (one’s way), esp by removing obstructionshe dug his way through the crowd
  4. (tr; often foll by out or up) to obtain by diggingto dig potatoes; to dig up treasure
  5. (tr; often foll by out or up) to find or discover by effort or searchingto dig out unexpected facts
  6. (tr; foll by in or into) to thrust or jab (a sharp instrument, weapon, etc); pokehe dug his spurs into the horse’s side
  7. (tr; foll by in or into) to mix (compost, etc) with soil by digging
  8. (tr) informal to like, understand, or appreciate
  9. (intr) US slang to work hard, esp for an examination
  10. (intr) British informal to have lodgingsI dig in South London


  1. the act of digging
  2. a thrust or poke, esp in the ribs
  3. a cutting or sarcastic remark
  4. informal an archaeological excavation

late 17c. as “a tool for digging,” from dig (v.). Meaning “archaeological expedition” is from 1896. Meaning “thrust or poke” (as with an elbow) is from 1819; figurative sense of this is from 1840.


early 14c. (diggen), of uncertain origin, perhaps related to dike and ditch, either via Old French diguer (ultimately from a Germanic source), or directly from an unrecorded Old English word. Native words were deolfan (see delve), grafan (see grave (v.)).

Slang sense of “understand” first recorded 1934 in Black English, probably based on the notion of “excavate.” A slightly varied sense of “appreciate” emerged 1939. Strong past participle dug appeared 16c., but is not etymological. Related: Digging.


Excavate trenches to defend oneself in battle and hold one’s position, as in The battalion dug in and held on. This usage gained currency in the trench warfare of World War I. [Mid-1800s]


Also, dig in one’s heels. Adopt a firm position, be obstinate and unyielding. For example, Arthur refused to argue the point and simply dug in, or The dog dug in its heels and refused to move. [Colloquial; late 1800s]


Begin to work intensively, as in If we all dig in it’ll be done before dark. [Colloquial; second half of 1800s]


Also, dig into. Begin to eat heartily, as in Even before all the food was on the table they began to dig in, or When the bell rang, the kids all dug into their lunches. [Colloquial; early 1900s]

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