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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 grovelled
Historical Examples
  • He grovelled on the divan heavy in thought and with pendent arms.

    Therese Raquin Emile Zola
  • I grovelled at your feet and begged you—you spurned me as I do you now.

    Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer Cyrus Townsend Brady
  • By the side of the man he rose, and the man shrieked and grovelled.

    Soldiers Three, Part II. Rudyard Kipling
  • Meiser flung down his revolver, and grovelled like a beast at Fougas' feet.

  • Then Tua spoke, looking down at the wretched Abi who grovelled before her.

    Morning Star H. Rider Haggard
  • Her heart ached, and she would have grovelled at his feet, had he permitted her.

    'Me-Smith' Caroline Lockhart
  • Linda grovelled at her feet, and could only pray that God might take her to Himself at once.

    Linda Tressel

    Anthony Trollope
  • He grovelled in the mire and besought them, calling each one of them by his name.

    The Iliad Homer
  • He gazed on her (as she grovelled at his feet) with a look that her eyes did well to shun.

    The Last Of The Barons, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • The male, furious, beat her severely, and she grovelled and wept.

    The Sea Jules Michelet
British Dictionary definitions for grovelled


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 grovelled



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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