ear·​wig | \ˈir-ˌwig \

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

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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

The downside is that earwigs are in heaven, enjoying the mulch cover. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, "Consider all insect control measures carefully as earwigs, squash bugs move in," 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, "The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy," 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, "Double-duty: Grow corn to support bean stalks too | Idaho Statesman," 28 Mar. 2018 Pollination occurred before the earwigs had their way. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, "Double-duty: Grow corn to support bean stalks too | Idaho Statesman," 28 Mar. 2018 Potential pests include snails, slugs, earwigs, aphids, leafminers, thrips and whiteflies. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, "Growing iceberg lettuce takes time and cool weather," 28 July 2017 Their defenses are also formidable, from the supertough shell of the ironclad beetle to the toxic spines of the puss caterpillar to the rotting-flesh stink of the shore earwig. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "This Is Why Insects Rule the World," 26 Nov. 2016 Canned-fish cat food drives the earwigs crazy with desire. Ciscoe Morris, The Seattle Times, "How a dab of canned cat food protects your dazzling dahlias," 5 July 2017 These thick, hardy earwigs, called Arixenia esau, were so strongly attached to the rock that the scientists had to pry them off with forceps. Photograph Courtesy Michael Hastriter, National Geographic, "Fleas Hitch Ride on Earwigs to Suck Bat Blood," 5 Mar. 2017

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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near earwig

ear wagon

ear warden






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Time Traveler for earwig

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

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More Definitions for earwig



English Language Learners Definition of earwig

: an insect that has long, thin feelers and two curved, pointed parts at the end of the body


ear·​wig | \ˈir-ˌwig \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on earwig

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with earwig

Spanish Central: Translation of earwig

Nglish: Translation of earwig for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about earwig

Comments on earwig

What made you want to look up earwig? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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