Definition of earwig in English:

earwig

noun

  • A small elongated insect with a pair of terminal appendages that resemble pincers. The females typically care for their eggs and young until they are grown.

    • ‘The earwigs will hide in these and every morning if you tip out the contents you'll get not alone the hay filling but quite a number of insects as well.’
    • ‘These stories have little basis in fact, although earwigs have been known to cause a mildly painful bite when sat upon or handled.’
    • ‘He published papers illustrating discontinuous variation in floral symmetry and in terminal forceps of earwigs and the hornlike processes seen in certain male beetles.’
    • ‘Rising late in the morning to tents mysteriously full of earwigs we set off for a look.’
    • ‘Even earwigs can be useful because they eat aphids, codling moth eggs and the red spider mite.’

verb

[NO OBJECT]British
informal
  • 1 Eavesdrop on a conversation.

    ‘he looked behind him to see if anyone was earwigging’
    • ‘They finally got her into the office, so I started earwigging outside. ‘Look, if you promise not to come into the store again nicking, we'll let you go.’’
    • ‘They went on about benefits, making ends meet and why New Labour is so out of touch with the plight of those on the dole as I nodded surreptitiously into my pint, earwigging all the while.’
    • ‘Like most writers, Dewar is a good listener, earwigging on other's conversations.’
    • ‘He's looking a little distracted, as he's trying to earwig on the Edge's conversation.’
    • ‘In the above situation it is quite appropriate to look the other way whilst earwigging and they will pretend you can't hear their conversation.’
    • ‘Quite often when we chat about not-specifically-work-things, Jim earwigs and contributes.’
    • ‘After the conference speeches are over, I drift around the hotel bars earwigging on conversations.’
    • ‘I earwigged into a conversation with her last season and she told me what a beautiful horse it was.’
    • ‘A malfunction is being blamed for some callers being able to listen in to other people's calls - and presumably, other people earwigging into their conversations.’
    • ‘Earwigging on the crew, we heard nothing but praise.’
    • ‘Random people preceding me were confronting various BBC folk and questioning them, and I dutifully earwigged.’
    • ‘Our venue is on Charlotte Street, where the tables are placed close enough for you to earwig on each other's ideas for another makeover series.’
    • ‘In one corner was a hefty table of corporate lawyers (no interesting earwigging there); in another sat the insurance posse; over to my left were the corporate finance crew.’
    1. 1.1archaic [with object]Influence (someone) by secret means.

Origin

Old English ēarwicga, from ēare ear + wicga earwig (probably related to wiggle). The insect is so named because it was once thought to crawl into the human ear.

Pronunciation:

earwig

/ˈirˌwiɡ/