Where does the term “elbow grease” come from and What does elbow grease mean?

Just plain exercise for the elbows, or, rather, for the arms and elbows, such as scrubbing for the females of the species or polishing the car for the males.

Elbow grease is the best kind of polish, it used to be said, to get furniture smooth and lustrous.

The term “elbow grease” was well known back in the seventeenth century, and was defined by a dictionary of slang at the end of that century, A Dictionary of the Terms of the Canting Crew, as, “A derisory Term for Sweat.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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