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elbow grease

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noun
  1. strenuous physical exertion: a job requiring elbow grease.
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Origin of elbow grease

First recorded in 1630–40
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for elbow grease

Historical Examples

  • He has the technique of the conductor, but the elbow-grease was missing.

    Old Fogy

    James Huneker

  • But there is some polish, because the lads put that on with elbow-grease.

    Old Gold

    George Manville Fenn

  • Not at all, Mrs. Broughton; success depends on elbow-grease.

  • Forethought is the elbow-grease which a novelist,—or poet, or dramatist,—requires.

    Thackeray

    Anthony Trollope

  • Even at the present day, Madam Joes universal panacea is the grubbing-hoe and elbow-grease.

    Florida: Past and present

    Samuel Curtis Upham


British Dictionary definitions for elbow grease

elbow grease

noun
  1. facetious vigorous physical labour, esp hard rubbing
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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

elbow grease in Culture

elbow grease

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

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.