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Dig vs Delve vs Spade vs Grub vs Excavate

Dig, delve, spade, grub, excavate mean to use a spade or similar utensil in breaking up the ground to a point below the surface and in turning or removing the earth or bringing to the surface of something below it.

Dig, the commonest word, implies a loosening of the earth around or under something so as to bring it to the surface, or a disturbing of the earth by such loosening.

Dig may imply also a result comparable to that obtained by spading or a bringing to the surface or out of concealment or prolonged laborious effort as in study or research.

Delve implies the use of a spade or more often of efforts comparable to the use of a spade and carries a stronger connotation of laboriousness and depth of penetration (as in the work of a gardener or of one who cultivates an interest).

Spade is often interchangeable with dig but even more frequently than the latter is applied to a turning of the earth in manual (as opposed to mechanical) preparation of soil for planting.

Grub may denote a digging and turning of soil but more often implies a clearing of soil by digging out something (as roots, stumps, and stones); often it suggests the hard, dirty, exhausting nature of such work and with this feeling may be used of various tasks, labors, or duties.

In some cases grub reflects the disorder of the land-clearing process and denotes a haphazard and laborious rummaging.

Excavate suggests making a hollow in or through something (as the ground, a mass of rock, or a mountainside) by or as if by means of a spade or shovel or a machine which performs the operations of spading and shoveling.