ear·​wig | \ ˈir-ˌwig How to pronounce earwig (audio) \

Definition of earwig

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of numerous insects (order Dermaptera) having slender many-jointed antennae and a pair of cerci resembling forceps at the end of the body


earwigged; earwigging

Definition of earwig (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to annoy or attempt to influence by private talk

Did you know?


Earwigs are small insects that were once thought to crawl into the ears of sleeping people. This isn't true - earwigs prefer moist, dark places under leaves and rocks to human ears - but the superstition led people to name the insect ēarwicga, Old English for "ear insect." Over time, people connected the idea of having an insect in one's ear to situations that involve whispering or speaking privately into someone's ear. The noun earwig came to also mean "a whispering busybody" (though this sense is now considered archaic), and the verb earwig evolved to refer to the acts of such meddlers. In British English, the word is more commonly used to mean "eavesdrop," as in "earwigged on their conversation at the party."

Examples of earwig in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Earwigs, especially babies (look like a mini earwig) can get to some of the top roots. oregonlive, 10 May 2020 For me, the quickest and easiest way was to record the lines, put in an earwig (a near-invisible wireless speaker) and act in the scene imagining myself there. John Wenzel, The Know, 24 Oct. 2019 The earwigs should fall onto the cloth and can then be disposed of. The Editors, Good Housekeeping, 27 July 2018 The downside is that earwigs are in heaven, enjoying the mulch cover. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, 22 June 2018 Other kids were debating whether an insect was a centipede, an earwig, or some other sort of beetle. Conor Williams, The Atlantic, 26 Apr. 2018 In my experience, by the time the corn is ripe there are no visible silks because earwigs have eaten them. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, 28 Mar. 2018 Pollination occurred before the earwigs had their way. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, 28 Mar. 2018 Potential pests include snails, slugs, earwigs, aphids, leafminers, thrips and whiteflies. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, 28 July 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'earwig.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of earwig


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


1804, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for earwig


Middle English erwigge, from Old English ēarwicga, from ēare ear + wicga insect

Buying Guide

Our Reviews team has selected the best bug spray.

Learn More About earwig

Time Traveler for earwig

Time Traveler

The first known use of earwig was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About earwig

Dictionary Entries Near earwig




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for earwig

Cite this Entry

“Earwig.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/earwig. Accessed 30 Sep. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for earwig


ear·​wig | \ ˈir-ˌwig How to pronounce earwig (audio) \

Kids Definition of earwig

: an insect with long slender feelers and a part at the end of its body that pinches and is used for self-defense

More from Merriam-Webster on earwig

Nglish: Translation of earwig for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about earwig


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!