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[el-boh] /ˈɛl boʊ/
the bend or joint of the human arm between upper arm and forearm.
the corresponding joint in the forelimb of a quadruped.
something bent like an elbow, as a sharp turn in a road or river, or a piece of pipe bent at an angle.
Architecture. crossette.
Also called ell, el. a plumbing pipe or pipe connection having a right-angled bend.
verb (used with object)
to push with or as if with the elbow; jostle.
to make (one's way) by so pushing.
verb (used without object)
to elbow one's way:
He elbowed through the crowd.
at one's elbow, within easy reach; nearby:
A virtue of the cottage is that the ocean is at your elbow.
bend / lift / crook an elbow, Informal. to drink alcoholic beverages.
give the elbow, shove aside, get rid of, or reject.
out at the elbows,
  1. poorly dressed; shabby.
  2. impoverished.
Also, out at elbows.
rub elbows with, to mingle socially with; associate with:
a resort where royalty rubs elbows with the merely rich.
up to one's elbows, very busy; engrossed:
I am up to my elbows in answering mail.
Also, up to the elbows.
Origin of elbow
before 1000; Middle English elbowe, Old English el(n)boga; cognate with Middle Dutch elle(n)bōghe, Old High German el(l)inbogo (German Ellenbogen), Old Norse ǫl(n)bogi; literally, “forearm-bend.” See ell2, bow1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for elbow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He found Austin sitting on the chair by his desk, resting his chin on his elbow.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • Not until there was a convulsive jerk of Dozier's elbow did he stir his folded arms.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • The medicine-tray lay at Carlotta's elbow; beside it the box of labels.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • Then aloud he repeated the question, touching the bookmaker on the elbow.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • Soon the Chestnut's head showed past his elbow, and they were both lapped on the Black.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
British Dictionary definitions for elbow


the joint between the upper arm and the forearm, formed by the junction of the radius and ulna with the humerus
the corresponding joint or bone of birds or mammals
the part of a garment that covers the elbow
something resembling an elbow, such as a sharp bend in a road or river
at one's elbow, within easy reach
out at elbow, out at elbows, ragged or impoverished
up to the elbows with, up to the elbows in, busily occupied with; deeply immersed in
(transitive) to reject; dismiss. Also: give the elbow
to make (one's way) by shoving, jostling, etc
(transitive) to knock or shove with or as if with the elbow
Word Origin
Old English elnboga; see ell², bow²; related to Old Norse olbogi, Old High German elinbogo
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for elbow

c.1200, elbowe, from Old English elnboga, from ell "length of the forearm" + boga "bow, arch," from West Germanic *alinobogan, from Proto-Germanic *elino-bugon, literally "bend of the forearm" (cf. Middle Dutch ellenboghe, Dutch elleboog, Old High German elinbogo, German Ellenbogen, Old Norse ölnbogi).

Second element related to Old English bugan "to bend" (see bow (v.)); first element from *alina "arm," from PIE *el- (1) "elbow, forearm" (see ell (n.1)). Phrase elbow grease "hard rubbing" is attested from 1670s, from jocular sense of "the best substance for polishing furniture." Elbow room attested from mid-16c.


"thrust with the elbow," c.1600, from elbow (n.). Figurative sense is from 1863. Related: Elbowed; elbowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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elbow in Medicine

elbow el·bow (ěl'bō')

  1. The joint or bend of the arm between the forearm and the upper arm. Also called cubitus.

  2. The bony outer projection of this joint.

  3. Something having a bend or an angle similar to an elbow.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for elbow



A police officer or detective


To associate with someone as a friend; rub elbows

Related Terms

bend the elbow, not know one's ass from one's elbow, rub elbows

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with elbow
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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