Definition of dig in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɪɡ/

verb (digging; past and past participle dug /dʌɡ/)

1 [no object] Break up and move earth with a tool or machine, or with hands, paws, snout, etc. the boar had been digging for roots [with object]: she had to dig the garden authorities cause chaos by digging up roads
More example sentences
  • Well, suddenly without any warning, a couple of weeks ago, men and machines arrived and started digging up the road and pavement and generally causing the usual traffic chaos.
  • But others complain that foxes are digging up their gardens, fouling their lawns, attacking their pets and ripping open their garbage bags.
  • They have given up work and are digging up their gardens.
cultivate, till, harrow, plough, turn over, work, break up, spade;
delve, break up soil, break up earth, break up ground, move soil/earth
1.1 [with object] Make (a hole, grave, etc.) by digging: he took a spade and dug a hole (as adjective dug) the newly dug grave
More example sentences
  • We arrived to the clan cemetery and I watched as my uncles brought the casket to the newly dug hole and they lowered it in.
  • He went out and bought a spade and began digging a grave.
  • I grabbed a spade and frantically dug a hole in the garden, hoping like hell my flatmate wouldn't turn up during the process.
excavate, dig out, quarry, hollow out, scoop out, gouge out, cut, bore, tunnel, burrow, mine, channel
1.2 [with object and adverbial] Extract from the ground by breaking up and moving earth: the water board came and dug the cable up
More example sentences
  • Piles of earth around the coffin showed it had recently been dug up, and it appears the decaying lid was smashed to get at the bones.
  • Actually, the giant marine reptile whose remains have lain buried near Whitby for 185 million years and who was dug up last week doesn't actually have a name, yet.
  • The flute was dug up in a cave in the Swabian mountains in south-western Germany, and pieced back together again from 31 fragments.
unearth, dig up, pull up, grub up, root up, root out, bring to the surface, extract from the ground;
harvest, gather, collect
exhume, disinter, unearth, bring to the surface, bring out of the ground
rare disentomb, unbury
1.3 (dig in) (Of a soldier) protect oneself by digging a trench or similar ground defence.
Example sentences
  • They were like soldiers in the trenches when they dug in to repel waves of attack when beating the Dutch 1-0 at Lansdowne Road in the qualifiers.
  • The English troops, mainly archers and foot soldiers, dug in behind wooden stakes between thickly wooded ground.
  • Today the soldiers are dug in behind sandbags and pickup trucks with mounted machine guns patrol the streets.
1.4 (dig in) informal Begin eating heartily.
Example sentences
  • His aunt and roommate conversed heartily on as they all began to dig in.
  • After he had sat down and begun to eat Ella dug in.
  • Despite my protests, I dug in heartily, taking a big bite of the savory food.
1.5 [with object] Excavate (an archaeological site): apart from digging a site, recording evidence is important
More example sentences
  • No convincing pyre sites were found, possibly because of the way the site was dug.
  • Just digging the site was an achievement in itself, he says.
  • It was also unusual, he added, to be digging a site as recent as the 1880s for the express purpose of adding to local knowledge.
2 [with object] Push or poke sharply: he dug his hands into his pockets
More example sentences
  • She sat still for a few seconds as Gabby dug a sharply edged eyeliner pencil into her top eyelid.
  • Juanita chose that moment to dig her razor sharp long nails into my left arm as Rachel grabbed the right and Teresa shoved me right into a wall.
  • He dug his feet in to gain his balance and pushed his rear-end up first.
poke, prod, jab, stab, shove, ram, push, thrust, drive, nudge
2.1 [no object, with adverbial] Search or rummage in a specified place: Catherine dug into her handbag and produced her card
More example sentences
  • It does the search of the search engines for you, digging through ten search engines to generate your results.
  • When the search engine visitor submits their query, the search engine digs through its database to give the final listing that is displayed on the results page.
  • Deciding to steer clear of the bed for a bit, Christopher went over to one of his bags and began to dig through it, searching for his journal and pen.
2.2 [no object] Engage in research; conduct an investigation: he had no compunction about digging into her private affairs
More example sentences
  • You have the qualification to be a top investigator or researcher as you doggedly dig out the facts of whatever matter you are pursuing.
  • The program allows participants to dig deeper and engage in more robust conversations than in programs where attendees hail from different fields.
  • It implores the police to have a third eye when investigating such cases by digging deeper and bringing the culprits to book.
delve, probe, search, enquire, look;
investigate, research, examine, scrutinize, check up on, vet;
North American  check out
2.3 (dig something up/out) Bring out or discover something after a search or investigation: they dug out last year’s notes have you dug up any information on the captain?
More example sentences
  • Manchester Royal Infirmary, which is losing 1,000 pairs of crutches a year, is hoping former patients will dig them out of the loft, garage or garden shed and bring them back - no questions asked.
  • I could dig out old journals and search but that's an activity fraught with danger.
  • Releasing my now trembling hand, she searched through her black purse, digging out a lighter and pack of cigarettes.
uncover, unearth, dredge up, root out, hunt out, ferret out, nose out, sniff out, track down, extricate, find (out), turn up, come across, discover, detect, reveal, bring to light, bring into the open, expose
3 [with object] informal Like, appreciate, or understand: I really dig heavy rock
More example sentences
  • Like I said, it took me by surprise and I would recommend it to anyone who currently digs the rock thing, even if it's too heavy at times.
  • At the same time, there was a girl named Natacat in Chicoutimi who dug garage rock.
  • We have fought hundreds of hours on that map and I really dig the steep rocks you can jump out from into the frozen river.


1 [in singular] An act or spell of digging: a thorough dig of the whole plot
More example sentences
  • An exploratory dig on Charles Street pay and display car park, the proposed library site, has uncovered evidence of dwellings dating back to the early Middle Ages.
  • The remains of 10 individual houses have so far been uncovered and it looks as if more could be found as the dig continues.
  • Speaking at the scene of the dig, the Detective said the witness had reported a sighting of both boys on the morning of their disappearance.
1.1 [count noun] An archaeological excavation.
Example sentences
  • When an archaeological dig takes place, the position of each ‘find’ is carefully recorded on a plan of the area.
  • Do you think I could look around the dig for a while?
  • That was when one of the archaeologists who was part of the dig stepped forward.
2A push or poke with one’s elbow, finger, etc. Ginnie gave her sister a dig in the ribs
More example sentences
  • All three took the digs, the elbows, the studs-up tackles and the raking down the shins and moved on.
  • Martina - not even interrupting her conversation with Julie, but somehow aware of Mike's derogatory comments - digs her elbow into his side.
  • Scott spluttered, earning himself a sharp dig in the ribs from Josh.
poke, prod, jab, stab, shove, push, nudge, elbow
2.1 informal A remark intended to mock or criticize: she never missed an opportunity to have a dig at him
More example sentences
  • While criticising communal parties, he had a dig at the Congress, saying that people know the aims and objectives of communal forces.
  • His statement was a clear dig at the negative reaction to his claim last weekend that a gay clique in the Democratic Alliance was behind sexual harassment allegations against him.
  • I even had someone come up to me in the street and tell me I had let the country down, after TV commentators had a dig at me.
snide remark, cutting remark, jibe, jeer, taunt, sneer, insult, barb, slur, slight, affront, insinuation
informal wisecrack, crack, put-down



dig the dirt (or dig up dirt)

informal Discover and reveal damaging information about someone.
Example sentences
  • Why bother digging up dirt on anyone when someone is going to turn around and dig up darker and chunkier dirt in the next minute?
  • People are always trying to dig up dirt, but there's really nothing to hide - we have a very good, friendly relationship.
  • He hired a private eye to dig up dirt on this mother.

dig a hole for oneself (or dig oneself into a hole)

Get oneself into an awkward or restrictive situation.
Example sentences
  • We Texans have a saying: ‘When you find you've dug yourself into a hole, the very first thing to do is quit digging.’
  • He said he panicked because he was on probation and told the jury he had dug a hole for himself and that was why he wanted to tell the truth and come clean.
  • And we are further digging ourselves into a hole by endorsing the use of police interrogation methods that experts throughout the world know don't work.

dig in one's heels (or toes or feet)

Resist stubbornly; refuse to give in: officials dug their heels in on particular points
More example sentences
  • My first viewing of it last year was an exercise in frustration as I dug in my heels and resisted any of its sensual pleasures as I hoped that its thematic strands would cohere into some sort of profound statement.
  • Or you could dig in your heels and stubbornly fight against life, trying to defeat it, like the fallen tree.
  • The difficulty for those attempting to save the credibility of Scottish football is that the very steps which would begin to redress the balance cause the Old Firm to dig in their heels in stubborn resistance.

dig a pit for

see pit1.

dig's one's own grave

see grave1.


Middle English: perhaps from Old English dīc 'ditch'.

  • dyke from Middle English:

    There are two almost contradictory aspects to dyke: it means both ‘something dug out’ and ‘something built up’. The first group of senses began in the medieval period and derives from the old Scandinavian word dík or diki, which corresponds to native English ditch (Old English) and is related to dig (Middle English). At much the same time related German and Dutch forms gave us the second group, initially in the sense ‘a city wall, a fortification’. A possible linking idea appears in the sense ‘dam’—a dam entails both the building up of an obstruction and the creation of a pool. The Dutch build dykes to prevent flooding from the sea. This is the context of the phrase to put your finger in a dyke, ‘to attempt to stem the advance of something undesirable’. It comes from a popular story of a heroic little Dutch boy who saved his community from flooding, by placing his finger in a hole in a dyke, thereby preventing it getting bigger and averting the disastrous consequences.

    The word dyke is also a derogatory term for a lesbian, especially a masculine-looking one. Originally found in the fuller form bulldyke, it has been in use since at least the 1920s, but no one is sure of its origin.

Words that rhyme with dig

big, brig, fig, gig, grig, jig, lig, pig, prig, rig, snig, sprig, swig, tig, trig, twig, Whig, wig

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dig

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