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elbow grease

strenuous physical exertion:
a job requiring elbow grease.
Origin of elbow grease
First recorded in 1630-40 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for elbow grease
Historical Examples
  • A little more soap and elbow grease, the women said, was the secret.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh

    Edith Eudora Kohl
  • Plenty of soap and water, disinfectant, and elbow grease make a distemper prevention that is much better than any cure.

    The Airedale

    Williams Haynes
  • There it is; that's Injun tan, an' I hope you see that elbow grease is the main thing in tannin'.

    Two Little Savages

    Ernest Thompson Seton
  • Fat is the vulgar synonym for perquisites; elbow grease signifies labour; and Saint Monday is the favourite day of the week.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • I learnt him how to talk Injun an' read rapids an' build a fire with tinder an' elbow grease.

    In the Days of Poor Richard

    Irving Bacheller
  • The roundhouse men were careless and he decided to show them what “elbow grease” and industry could do.

    Ralph on the Engine Allen Chapman
  • In the field a string cleaner will do the business, but at once when you get to permanent camp use a rod and elbow grease.

    Camp and Trail Stewart Edward White
  • "Less chin-wag going; you'll want all your energy for elbow grease," he exclaimed.

    A Lively Bit of the Front Percy F. Westerman
  • All I seen was the way he cranked the machine, and he didn't waste any elbow grease doin' it, either.

    The Voice on the Wire Eustace Hale Ball
  • "elbow grease" is the principal secret connected with the art of glossing linen.

British Dictionary definitions for elbow grease

elbow grease

(facetious) vigorous physical labour, esp hard rubbing
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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elbow grease in Culture

elbow grease definition

Strenuous physical effort: “If you're going to get this job done, you'll need to apply a little elbow grease.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for elbow grease

elbow grease

noun phrase

Muscular exertion; physical effort (1710+)

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 grease

elbow grease

Strenuous physical effort, as in You'll have to use some elbow grease to get the house painted in time. This term alludes to vigorous use of one's arm in cleaning, polishing, or the like. It soon was extended to any kind of hard work, and Anthony Trollope used it still more figuratively (Thackeray, 1874): “Forethought is the elbow-grease which a novelist ... requires.” [ First half of 1600s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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