Peeping Tom


: a pruriently prying person : voyeur
Peeping Tomism noun

Word History


Peeping Tom, legendary citizen of Coventry who watched Lady Godiva riding naked

First Known Use

1769, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Peeping Tom was in 1769

Dictionary Entries Near Peeping Tom

Cite this Entry

“Peeping Tom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

peeping Tom

peep·​ing Tom
: a person who spies into the windows of private dwellings
Word Origin
According to an ancient English legend, the lord of the town of Coventry had burdened the citizens with heavy taxes. His wife, Lady Godiva, was constantly urging the lord to lower the taxes. Finally he promised to do away with the taxes, but only if Lady Godiva would ride naked on a horse through the town. Wanting to help the townspeople, Godiva agreed and made the ride, covered only by her very long hair. For their part, the people decided to stay in their homes and not look at her nakedness. However, a tailor named Tom could not resist the temptation to peep at her. For this, it is said, he was struck blind. He is remembered as "Peeping Tom," and his name is used for a person who sneakily peeps at the private activities of others.

Medical Definition

Peeping Tom

Peep·​ing Tom ˌpē-piŋ-ˈtäm How to pronounce Peeping Tom (audio)
: a pruriently prying person : voyeur
Peeping Tomism noun

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