Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Vigorous scrubbing, typically to clean something. You'll never get that rust off without some elbow grease.
Fig. hard scrubbing. Tom: What did you use to get your car so shiny? Mary: Just regular wax and some elbow grease. Joe put a lot of elbow grease into cleaning the kitchen.
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]
Elbow grease is the hard physical work of cleaning something. It took a considerable amount of polish and elbow grease before the brass shone like new. These products are designed to take the elbow grease out of cleaning.
ˈelbow grease(informal) the effort used in physical work, especially in cleaning: The bath was so old and stained that we couldn’t get it clean no matter how much elbow grease we used.
n. effort. All this job needs is a little more elbow-grease.
elbow grease, to use
To apply physical effort. It has been said that this expression, dating from the seventeenth century, originally referred to a joke played on a new apprentice, who was sent out to a shop to purchase “elbow grease.” Originally meaning simply to use one’s arm vigorously in scrubbing or polishing, it soon was transferred to other kinds of effort as well. “Forethought is the elbow-grease which a novelist—or poet, or dramatist—requires,” said Anthony Trollope (Thackeray, 1874).