Definition of hornet in US English:



  • A large stinging wasp that typically nests in hollow trees.

    Vespa and other genera, family Vespidae: several species, including the giant hornet (V. crabro) and the bald-faced (or white-faced) hornet (V. maculata)

    • ‘The insects most likely to cause allergic reactions are wasps, honeybees, hornets, yellow jackets and ants.’
    • ‘Bites from bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants are typically the most troublesome.’
    • ‘Insects such as bees, wasps and hornets inject a venom into the skin when they sting us, which can cause pain, swelling and itchiness in the area.’
    • ‘South African paper wasps, or hornets as they are also called, are often encountered underneath overhangs such as the eaves of roofs but do not form very big groups.’
    • ‘A grasshopper materialized, then several hornets, two shiny black wasps, a drab brown damselfly, and a large azure-blue dragonfly.’


  • a hornets' nest

    • A situation fraught with difficulties or complications.

      ‘the move has stirred up a hornets' nest of academic fear and loathing’
      • ‘The US has not only disturbed a hornets' nest; it keeps on poking it.’
      • ‘What you've done needed doing, but I'm thinking it's likely to be like kicking a hornets' nest when word of it gets out.’
      • ‘Or, if the allegations are substantiated and he can deliver, then that stirs up a whole new hornets' nest.’
      • ‘In doing so, he seems to have stirred up a hornets' nest.’
      • ‘To push that theological line, however, is still to stir up a hornets' nest.’
      • ‘It is cynical, but I think they enjoy stirring up a hornets' nest.’
      • ‘Before I poke my stick into that little hornets' nest, I'm going to declare an interest in both sides.’
      • ‘Joseph E. Stiglitz whacked a hornets' nest in 2002 with the publication of Globalization and Its Discontents.’
      • ‘Discount broker TD Waterhouse has stirred up a hornets' nest with the announcement that it will introduce margin trading into the UK.’
      • ‘Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has stirred a real hornets' nest with his call to scrap the FA Academy system.’
      difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, difficult situation, mess, muddle, mix-up
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Old English hyrnet, of Germanic origin; related to German Hornisse. The form of the word was probably influenced by Middle Dutch and Middle Low German hornte.