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[gruhv-uh l, grov-] /ˈgrʌv əl, ˈgrɒv-/
verb (used without object), groveled, groveling or (especially British) grovelled, grovelling.
to humble oneself or act in an abject manner, as in great fear or utter servility.
to lie or crawl with the face downward and the body prostrate, especially in abject humility, fear, etc.
to take pleasure in mean or base things.
Origin of grovel
1585-95; back formation from obsolete groveling (adv.), equivalent to obsolete grufe face down (< Old Norse ā grūfu face down) + -ling2, taken to be present participle
Related forms
groveler; especially British, groveller, noun
grovelingly; especially British, grovellingly, adverb
ungroveling, adjective
ungrovelling, adjective
Can be confused
gavel, gravel, grovel.
1. truckle, toady, fawn, kowtow, pander. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for grovel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Ali says she was like a wild beast, but he twisted her wrist and made her grovel in the dust.

  • The women shriek and swoon, grovel on the ground, and tear their hair.

  • But don't let him have her, don't let him be happy with her, while I grovel here in shame!

    In a Little Town Rupert Hughes
  • My clients came to me, singly and in pairs, to grovel and to implore.

    The Plum Tree David Graham Phillips
  • Do you think that I have followed you here to grovel at your feet for mere whim?

    Tommy and Co. Jerome K. Jerome
  • Then we grovel in the dust of a million years, and ask God why.

  • He wished he could frighten her, force her to grovel, but someone might try to stop him from doing it.

    Shaman Robert Shea
  • So long as it continued to grovel in the depths, we could not think of setting out.

  • Are you to be happy, while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness?

    Frankenstein Mary W. Shelley
British Dictionary definitions for grovel


verb (intransitive) -els, -elling, -elled (US) -els, -eling, -eled
to humble or abase oneself, as in making apologies or showing respect
to lie or crawl face downwards, as in fear or humility
(often foll by in) to indulge or take pleasure (in sensuality or vice)
Derived Forms
groveller, noun
grovelling, noun, adjective
grovellingly, adverb
Word Origin
C16: back formation from obsolete groveling (adv), from Middle English on grufe on the face, of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse ā grūfu, from grūfa prone position; see -ling²
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 grovel

1590s, Shakespearian back-formation of groveling (Middle English), regarded as a present participle but really an adverb, from Old Norse grufe "prone" + obsolete adverbial suffix -ling (which survives also as the -long in headlong, sidelong); first element from Old Norse a grufu "on proneness." Perhaps related to creep. Related: Groveled; grovelled; groveling; grovelling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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