Definition of earwig in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɪəwɪɡ/


Image of earwig
A small elongated insect with a pair of terminal appendages that resemble pincers.
  • Order Dermaptera: several families.
Example sentences
  • He published papers illustrating discontinuous variation in floral symmetry and in terminal forceps of earwigs and the hornlike processes seen in certain male beetles.
  • Even earwigs can be useful because they eat aphids, codling moth eggs and the red spider mite.
  • These stories have little basis in fact, although earwigs have been known to cause a mildly painful bite when sat upon or handled.

verb (earwigs, earwigging, earwigged)

[no object]
1British informal Eavesdrop on a conversation: he looked behind him to see if anyone was earwigging
More example sentences
  • After the conference speeches are over, I drift around the hotel bars earwigging on conversations.
  • Like most writers, Dewar is a good listener, earwigging on other's conversations.
  • I earwigged into a conversation with her last season and she told me what a beautiful horse it was.
1.1 [with object] archaic Influence (someone) by secret means: he was so sure to be earwigged in private that what he heard or said openly went for little


Old English ēarwicga, from ēare 'ear' + wicga 'earwig' (probably related to wiggle); the insect was once thought to crawl into the human ear.

  • Earwigs have nothing to do with wigs. The -wig bit is related to wiggle, which makes a lot more sense. It was once thought that the insect crawled into people's ears, and the same idea is found in other languages: in French an earwig is a perce-oreilles, literally ‘ear-piercer’, and in German it is Ohrwurm, or ‘ear worm’. The Germans also used Ohrwurm as a term for those irritating snatches of music that go round and round in your head, and ear worm has been used in this sense in English since the 1980s. These tunes are also called sticky tunes in English, or a cognitive itch, while the Brazilians call them chiclete de ouvido or ear chewing gum.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ear¦wig

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