use (a little) (bit of) elbow grease(redirected from they used a little elbow grease)
use (a little) (bit of) elbow grease
1. To clean (something or some place) with a lot of effort, especially vigorous scrubbing. Come on, you're never going to get the gunk off the counter wiping it like that. Use a bit of elbow grease, for Pete's sake! I know it looks pretty gnarly right now, but if we use a little elbow grease, I bet we could get this old truck cleaned up real nice.
2. To exert a great deal of strenuous physical work (in order to do or accomplish something). I had to use a little bit of elbow grease, but I finally managed to tear down the entire wall with my sledgehammer. I know we're running out of time, but if we all use a bit of elbow grease, I think we'll be able to get the house built before the deadline.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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).
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer