• synonyms


  1. the thick-bodied, sluggish larva of several insects, as of a scarab beetle.
  2. a dull, plodding person; drudge.
  3. an unkempt person.
  4. Slang. food; victuals.
  5. any remaining roots or stumps after cutting vegetation to clear land for farming.
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verb (used with object), grubbed, grub·bing.
  1. to dig; clear of roots, stumps, etc.
  2. to dig up by the roots; uproot (often followed by up or out).
  3. Slang. to supply with food; feed.
  4. Slang. to scrounge: to grub a cigarette.
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verb (used without object), grubbed, grub·bing.
  1. to dig; search by or as if by digging: We grubbed through piles of old junk to find the deed.
  2. to lead a laborious or groveling life; drudge: It's wonderful to have money after having to grub for so many years.
  3. to engage in laborious study.
  4. Slang. to eat; take food.
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Origin of grub

1250–1300; Middle English grubbe (noun), grubben (v.); akin to Old High German grubilōn to dig, German grübeln to rack (the brain), Old Norse gryfia hole, pit; see grave1, groove
Related formsgrub·ber, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for grubs

maggot, worm, eats, caterpillar, entozoon, centipede, feed, provisions, victuals, sustenance, chow, nosh, nurture, viands, rations, edibles, shovel, forage, probe, ransack

Examples from the Web for grubs

Historical Examples of grubs

  • No; he does not sprinkle the vines with holy water to keep the grubs away.

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • This mushroom is especially free from grubs and it can be dried for winter use.

  • These bolls will not drop, but the grubs ruin the cotton they contain.

  • The grubs rarely exceed three-quarters of an inch in length.

    Our Common Insects

    Alpheus Spring Packard

  • Why wasn't she out scampering and running all the time, and hunting for grubs?

    A Young Mutineer

    Mrs. L. T. Meade

British Dictionary definitions for grubs


verb grubs, grubbing or grubbed
  1. (when tr, often foll by up or out) to search for and pull up (roots, stumps, etc) by digging in the ground
  2. to dig up the surface of (ground, soil, etc), esp to clear away roots, stumps, etc
  3. (intr; often foll by in or among) to search carefully
  4. (intr) to work unceasingly, esp at a dull task or research
  5. slang to provide (a person) with food or (of a person) to take food
  6. (tr) slang, mainly US to scroungeto grub a cigarette
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  1. the short legless larva of certain insects, esp beetles
  2. slang food; victuals
  3. a person who works hard, esp in a dull plodding way
  4. British informal a dirty child
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Word Origin for grub

C13: of Germanic origin; compare Old High German grubilōn to dig, German grübeln to rack one's brain, Middle Dutch grobben to scrape together; see grave ³, groove
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 grubs



c.1300, from hypothetical Old English *grubbian, from West Germanic *grubbjan (cf. Middle Dutch grobben, Old High German grubilon "to dig, search," German grübeln "to meditate, ponder"), from Proto-Germanic *grub- "to dig," base of Old English grafan (see grave (v.)).

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"larva," early 15c., perhaps from grub (v.) on the notion of "digging insect," or from the possibly unrelated Middle English grub "dwarfish fellow" (c.1400). Meaning "dull drudge" is 1650s. The slang sense of "food" is first recorded 1650s, said to be from birds eating grubs, but also often linked with bub "drink."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper