Elbow Grease

Meaning Of Idiom ‘Elbow Grease’

Elbow grease means vigorous and strenuous physical effort, especially with one’s arms and hands when cleaning something. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.,3Helterbran, Valeri R. Exploring Idioms: a Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4-8. Maupin House Pub., 2008.

Usage

Elbow grease is usually used as part of phrases such as the following:

Use (some) elbow grease
Need (some) elbow grease
(It will) take some elbow grease

While elbow grease tends to refer specifically to cleaning, it can be used to signify any kind of hard work.

Examples Of Use

“You don’t have to use so much cleanser in the tub. Just use some elbow grease.”

“It took a lot of elbow grease but I finally got these floors clean.”

“The car is covered with bird droppings. It’s gonna take some real elbow grease to wash.”

“Alright guys,” said the boss, “let’s get this order out. Put some elbow grease into it.”

Elbow grease idiom meaning

 

Origin

Used since the first half of the 1600s. 4Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

This idiom may allude to the idea that the elbow is the part of the arm that provides strength to a task, or to the elbow having to flex and extend vigorously when scrubbing something clean. It is also claimed to refer to sweat running down a person’s arm thus applying “grease” to the job being performed. Although the expression first referred to cleaning, it later was extended to refer to any type of hard work. note]Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.[/note],5Helterbran, Valeri R. Exploring Idioms: a Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4-8. Maupin House Pub., 2008.

More Idioms Starting with E

More Body Part Idioms

More Elbow Idioms

More Grease Idioms

Sources   [ + ]

1, 4. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.
3, 5. Helterbran, Valeri R. Exploring Idioms: a Critical-Thinking Resource for Grades 4-8. Maupin House Pub., 2008.