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elbow grease

strenuous physical exertion:
a job requiring elbow grease.
Origin of elbow grease
1630-40 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for elbow-grease
Historical Examples
  • Even at the present day, Madam Joes universal panacea is the grubbing-hoe and elbow-grease.

    Florida: Past and present Samuel Curtis Upham
  • He has the technique of the conductor, but the elbow-grease was missing.

    Old Fogy James Huneker
  • Not at all, Mrs. Broughton; success depends on elbow-grease.

    The Last Chronicle of Barset Anthony Trollope
  • But there is some polish, because the lads put that on with elbow-grease.

    Old Gold George Manville Fenn
  • Forethought is the elbow-grease which a novelist,—or poet, or dramatist,—requires.

    Thackeray Anthony Trollope
  • The elbow-grease of thinking was always distasteful to him, and had no doubt been so when he conceived and carried out this work.

    Thackeray Anthony Trollope
  • But hard work was not their way of life; wits they believed worth more than elbow-grease.

    Lobo, Rag and Vixen Ernest Seton-Thompson
  • If a mahogany table was to be made to shine, it was elbow-grease that the operation needed.

    Thackeray Anthony Trollope
British Dictionary definitions for elbow-grease

elbow grease

(facetious) vigorous physical labour, esp hard rubbing
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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elbow-grease in Culture

elbow grease definition

Strenuous physical effort: “If you're going to get this job done, you'll need to apply a little elbow grease.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for elbow-grease

elbow grease

noun phrase

Muscular exertion; physical effort (1710+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with elbow-grease

elbow grease

Strenuous physical effort, as in You'll have to use some elbow grease to get the house painted in time. This term alludes to vigorous use of one's arm in cleaning, polishing, or the like. It soon was extended to any kind of hard work, and Anthony Trollope used it still more figuratively (Thackeray, 1874): “Forethought is the elbow-grease which a novelist ... requires.” [ First half of 1600s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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