verb | GLEEN

What It Means

To glean is to gather or collect something bit by bit, or in a gradual way. Glean can also be used to mean “to search (something) carefully” and “to find out.”

// Neil has a collection of antique tools gleaned from flea markets and garage sales.

// They spent days gleaning the files for information.

// The police used old-fashioned detective work to glean his whereabouts.

Examples of GLEAN

“Not only did procuring money to maintain her company figure in Graham’s acceptance of the occasional theater job during the 1930s; perhaps, too, she thought that being associated with a successful play could bring new audiences to her dance performances. There can be no doubt that she gleaned something from each experience outside the rigorous and profoundly idiosyncratic works she created for her company, even if she learned that there were some projects she would prefer never to undertake again.” — Deborah Jowitt, Errand into the Maze: The Life and Works of Martha Graham, 2024

Did You Know?

While it is certainly true that one must reap what one sows (that is, harvest the crops that one plants), what should be done about the grain and other produce left over that the reapers missed? Well, friends, that must be gleaned—waste not, want not, after all. It’s a finicky business, too, picking through stalks and under leaves and whatnot. When it was first used in English in the 14th century, glean carried both the sense of “to gather grain or other produce left by reapers” and the more figurative meaning of “to gather information or material bit by bit,” reflecting the slow, gradual, painstaking work of scouring the fields. Over the years, and especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, glean has also come to be used frequently with the meaning “to find out, learn, ascertain.” This sense has been criticised by folks who think glean should always imply the drudgery involved in the literal grain-gathering sense, but it is well established and perfectly valid.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary