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1590s, Shakespearian back-formation of groveling (Middle English), regarded as a present participle but really an adverb, from Old Norse grufe "prone" + obsolete adverbial suffix -ling (which survives also as the -long in headlong, sidelong); first element from Old Norse a grufu "on proneness." Perhaps related to creep. Related: Groveled; grovelled; groveling; grovelling.
1. To work interminably and without apparent progress. Often used transitively with "over" or "through". "The file scavenger has been groveling through the /usr directories for 10 minutes now." Compare grind and crunch. Emphatic form: "grovel obscenely".
2. To examine minutely or in complete detail. "The compiler grovels over the entire source program before beginning to translate it." "I grovelled through all the documentation, but I still couldn't find the command I wanted."