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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for elbow

Contemporary Examples of elbow

Historical Examples of elbow

  • He found Austin sitting on the chair by his desk, resting his chin on his elbow.


    William J. Locke

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

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


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Then aloud he repeated the question, touching the bookmaker on the elbow.


    W. A. Fraser

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


    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 or out at elbows ragged or impoverished
up to the elbows with or up to the elbows in busily occupied with; deeply immersed in


(tr) to reject; dismiss. Also: give the elbow
to make (one's way) by shoving, jostling, etc
(tr) to knock or shove with or as if with the elbow

Word Origin for elbow

Old English elnboga; see ell ², bow ²; 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

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

Medicine definitions for elbow




The joint or bend of the arm between the forearm and the upper arm.cubitus
The bony outer projection of this joint.
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.

Idioms and Phrases with elbow


In addition to the idioms beginning with elbow

  • elbow grease
  • elbow room

also see:

  • at someone's elbow
  • crook one's elbow
  • out at the elbows
  • rub elbows with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.