One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1figurative A worm imagined as infesting the brain. Chiefly figurative.
Zoology and Veterinary Med. Any of various parasitic worms that infect the brains of mammals or other vertebrates; especially any nematode of the genera Elaphostrongylus and Parelaphostrongylus (family Protostrongylidae), which parasitize the central nervous system and certain other tissues of deer. Also (without article): worms of this kind.
Zoology. A liver fluke, Dicrocoelium dendriticum (family Dicrocoelidae), which parasitizes many species of mammal (and occasionally humans), and has a cercarial stage which enters the brain of an intermediate host, the ant, resulting in behavioural changes conducive to transmission to mammals.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Richard Brathwait (?1588–1673), poet and writer. From brain + worm.
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