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[eek] /ik/
verb (used with object), eked, eking.
to increase; enlarge; lengthen.
Verb phrases
eke out,
  1. to make (a living) or support (existence) laboriously:
    They managed to eke out a living by farming a small piece of land.
  2. to supplement; add to; stretch:
    to eke out an income with odd jobs.
Origin of eke1
before 1000; Middle English eken, Old English ēac(i)an (intransitive), derivative of ēaca (noun) increase; Middle English echen, Old English ēcan, variant of īecan (transitive) < West Germanic *aukjan; both akin to Old Norse auka, Gothic aukan, Latin augēre, Greek auxánein to increase, amplify Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for eking out
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There were some clumsily indicated buildings, possibly sheds and stables of daub and wattle, eking out the ramshackle house.

    The Dop Doctor Clotilde Inez Mary Graves
  • He was then a young man of twenty-five, eking out a living by tuition.

    Pioneers of Science Oliver Lodge
  • But there are a hundred ways of eking out subsistence in cheap countries, without trenching on morality.

    Arthur O'Leary Charles James Lever
  • With the cane-bottomed one eking out a wooden one he lengthened the couch.

    The Royal Life Guard Alexander Dumas (pere)
  • Jacob Adler was at that time in London with a company, eking out a miserable existence.

    The Spirit of the Ghetto Hutchins Hapgood
  • But this way of eking out the facts only seemed to him to falsify them.

    Pragmatism D.L. Murray
  • Spenser, who endowed English verse with the soul of harmony while eking out a life of misery, finally died in abject poverty.

    Genius in Sunshine and Shadow Maturin Murray Ballou
  • The two had been eking out the remnants of Lois's school-money as best they might.

    Jane Field Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
British Dictionary definitions for eking out


(transitive) (archaic) to increase, enlarge, or lengthen
Word Origin
Old English eacan; related to Old Norse auka to increase, Latin augēre to increase


sentence connector
(archaic) also; moreover
Word Origin
Old English eac; related to Old Norse, Gothic auk also, Old High German ouh, Latin autem but, aut or
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
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Word Origin and History for eking out



c.1200, eken "to increase, lengthen," north England and E. Midlands variant of echen from Old English ecan, eacan, eacian "to increase," probably from eaca "an increase," from Proto-Germanic *aukan (cf. Old Norse auka, Old Frisian aka, Old High German ouhhon, Gothic aukan), from PIE *aug- "to increase" (see augment).

Now mainly in phrase to eke out (1590s). It means "to make something go further or last longer;" you can eke out your income by taking a second job, but you can't eke out your existence. Related: Eked; eking.


"also" (obsolete), from Old English eac, cognate with Old Saxon, Old Dutch ok, Old Norse and Gothic auk, Old Frisian ak, Old High German ouh, German auch "also;" probably related to eke (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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