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.

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.

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.

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


  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

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.)).


“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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