Definition of bug in English:

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Pronunciation: /bʌɡ/


1 informal A harmful microorganism, typically a bacterium: their ham was found to be contaminated with food bugs
More example sentences
  • The saline solution means that any harmful bugs, viruses or bacteria cannot survive, so it is completely hygienic.
  • An angry mother has hit out at the state of Central Park Swimming Pool after the council closed it following the discovery of the killer lung bug legionella.
  • There were all sort of staph bugs in there tromping on the heart valves.
1.1An illness caused by a microorganism: he’d just recovered from a flu bug
More example sentences
  • Bill Edmunds noticed that his young son seemed always to get a tummy bug right after his teeth had been painted with fluoride.
  • They say it's a virus and possibly one of those 24-hour flu bugs.
  • One shot may be all your family needs to ward off the flu bug.
illness, ailment, infection, disease, disorder, sickness, affliction, malady, complaint, upset, condition, infirmity, indisposition, malaise;
bacterium, germ, virus, bacillus, microorganism, microbe
British informal lurgy
1.2 [with modifier] An enthusiastic interest in something: they caught the sailing bug
More example sentences
  • When the gardening bug bites you, it usually happens around this time of year - and there will never be a better time than now to start.
  • And now even Pidí himself has caught the ice hockey bug.
  • Yes, the spring cleaning bug has bitten and God help anyone getting in my way.
obsession, enthusiasm, craze, fad, mania, rage, passion, fixation;
hobby, interest, pastime
informal thing
2chiefly North American A small insect: a thick green scum which crawls with bugs, centipedes, and worse
More example sentences
  • I observed small creatures: ants, bugs, moths, worms, all working their ways, digging in and out of the soil.
  • In the middle of the reproductive period most bugs carry eggs.
  • Tiny bugs crawled along the bark of ancient-looking trees.
insect, flea, mite, midge
informal creepy-crawly, beastie
British informal minibeast
3 (also true bug) Entomology An insect of a large order distinguished by having mouthparts that are modified for piercing and sucking.
Example sentences
  • The insect families that scientists lump together as aphids belong to the huge order of true bugs, which typically deploy sucking mouthparts much like built-in soda straws.
  • The Permian saw the appearance of stoneflies, true bugs, beetles, and caddisflies, among other groups.
  • Worldwide, stilt bugs are a relatively small group of unusual hemipterans, or true bugs, in the family Berytidae.
4A concealed miniature microphone, used for secret eavesdropping or recording: they cleaned out the bugs and wiretaps
More example sentences
  • That, according to sources, is a strong indication that it was the FBI's bug and they were the ones that put it there in the first place.
  • Other figures, including LBJ and Martin Luther King are observed vicariously through wire taps or electronic bugs.
  • He only had the director's word for it that the room was clean of bugs.
listening device, hidden microphone, receiver, transmitter, wire, wiretap, phone tap, tap
informal bugging device
5An error in a computer program or system: a custom program we used developed a bug
More example sentences
  • Worse, it is theoretically impossible to determine whether computer systems are free from programming bugs or nefarious code.
  • The game also plays host to a wide array of gameplay bugs and glitches.
  • Well, applications are prone to all types of problems, bugs, and errors.
fault, error, defect, flaw, imperfection, failing, breakdown;
informal glitch, gremlin, snarl-up

verb (bugs, bugging, bugged)

[with object]
1Conceal a miniature microphone in (a room or telephone) in order to eavesdrop on or record someone’s conversations secretly: the telephones in the presidential palace were bugged
More example sentences
  • The telephone was bugged, and most of the rooms had mini microphones hidden under furniture and behind pictures.
  • They enlisted the help of a wire-tapper to bug the star's telephone and bedroom.
  • Each capability seems innocuous, but a hidden cellphone with both features can silently and automatically answer calls, establishing a radio link for bugging a room.
1.1Record or eavesdrop on (a conversation) using a concealed microphone: she fears that her conversations were bugged
More example sentences
  • Short herself suspected her own conversations with him were bugged by spies, even while she was conducting them.
  • Fair enough security and all that but they, whoever they were, were just as likely to bug the office as to bug their phone calls.
  • He is suspected of having reported the bugged conversations to his superiors on a regular basis.
record, tap, listen in on, eavesdrop on, spy on, overhear;
wiretap, tap, monitor, phone-tap
informal snoop on
2 informal Annoy or bother (someone): a persistent reporter was bugging me
More example sentences
  • But that's not what really bugs me about this whole thing.
  • I know neither of them would hurt me, but it bugs me.
  • The guy's evident discomfort was starting to bug him.

Phrasal verbs


bug off

North American informal Go away: I assumed you’d come to tell me to bug off
More example sentences
  • She politely told him to bug off and returned to the breakfast table to finish the comics.
  • Why couldn't I just have told Van to bug off and that I'm not interested in getting to know him?
  • I wanted to resolve things with Carter… but I wanted to tell him to bug off at the same time.

bug out

1Leave quickly: if you see enemy troops, bug out
More example sentences
  • Once there, he claimed purple hearts for every scratch, and bugged out as quickly as humanly possible.
  • Clearly, there's a whole lot going on inside the museum, but perhaps it's best that some doors stay closed: watching some of the action might just cause people to bug out.
  • It was only motherly intervention that convinced her to bug out.
2North American informal Bulge outwards: men’s eyes bug out when she walks past
More example sentences
  • I am also presently shopping around at the Buy and Sell webpage for a phone, and my eyes are bugging out at the prices.
  • Nath sucked down some flaming blue cocktail and his eyes bugged out.
  • I have printed it out so I can read it without my eyes bugging out.


Early 17th century: of unknown origin. Current verb senses date from the early 20th century.

Words that rhyme with bug

chug, Doug, drug, dug, fug, glug, hug, jug, lug, mug, plug, pug, rug, shrug, slug, smug, snug, thug, trug, tug

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bug

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