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strenuous physical exertion:
a job requiring elbow grease.
(facetious) vigorous physical labour, esp hard rubbing

Strenuous physical effort: “If you’re going to get this job done, you’ll need to apply a little elbow grease.”

noun phrase

Muscular exertion; physical effort (1710+)
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 ]


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