Intermediate+ Word of the Day: dig

dig (verb, noun) /dɪg/ LISTEN

To dig means ‘to turn over earth with a shovel or a spade’ or ‘to work very hard as if turning something.’ Dig also means ‘to poke or force.’ As a noun, a dig is a poke and also an archeological excavation site. Informally, a dig is a sarcastic remark. Dig has another slang meaning. As a verb, it is used informally to mean ‘understand’ or ‘take notice of something’, and also, very informally ‘to like.’ These slang meanings can sound dated in some circles, but some people still use them.

Example sentences

  • Janine spent all day digging in the garden.
  • The rider dug his heels into the horse's sides.
  • Linda gave me a dig in the ribs to warn me to be quiet.
  • The archeologists are working on a dig about a mile away.
  • I don't like that guy; he's always making digs about the way I look.
  • Do you dig what I mean?
  • Dig that hat! It's so colorful!
  • I really dig the Beatles.

Words often used with dig

dig in: start eating, help yourself to food. Example: “Dinner’s ready. Dig in, everyone!”

Dig in can also mean ‘to keep your opinion or position.’ Example: “The union dug in and refused to budge. They said the workers would stay on strike until the firm agreed to all their demands.”

dig out: to free something by digging. Example: “We had to dig the car out of the snow before we could go to work this morning.”

Dig out can also be used figuratively to mean ‘to find something after searching for it.’ Example: “I’m glad you liked the cake. I’ll dig out the recipe for you.”

dig up: uncover or discover something by digging. Example: “We dug up a lot of old stones when we were putting the pond in. I think there must have been a wall in that part of the garden at one time.”

dig deep: contribute financially to something. Example: “The organization asked everyone to dig deep to help the victims of the disaster.”

In pop culture

Listen to the song “Dig a Little Deeper” from the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog:

When the singer says “dig a little deeper” in the chorus, she doesn’t mean physically. She means to think harder, to find out who you are and what you want, so you’d be figuratively digging inside yourself for the truth.

Did you like the style of the song? That’s gospel, which is a popular style of religious song in the US, in particular in African American churches.

Did you know?

The expression dig your heels in literally means ‘to push your heels into the ground’ to stop someone forcibly moving you from your position. Figuratively, it is used to mean ‘to stubbornly refuse to change your opinion, or stance, on something.’ Example: “The more the kids argued with their mom, the more she dug her heels in and said they couldn’t go.”


Dig dates back to the late 13th or early 14th century. The Middle English verb diggen means ‘to dig.’ It may have come from a lost Old English verb form of the noun dīc (ditch), or from the Middle French verb diguer, meaning ‘to dig’ (some linguists think the Middle French verb came from a different Germanic verb, maybe from Middle Dutch). The noun came about much later, in the late 17th century (meaning ‘a tool for digging’), and in the late 19th century, the meaning of ‘an archeological site’ appeared. To dig, meaning ‘to poke with an elbow,’ dates back to the early 19th century, and the related figurative sense, of poking someone with words, is from the mid-19th century.

Dig was suggested by Stefania, from Italy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Word of the Day is released Monday through Friday.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like