eaves·​drop ˈēvz-ˌdräp How to pronounce eavesdrop (audio)
eavesdropped; eavesdropping; eavesdrops

intransitive verb

: to listen secretly to what is said in private
eavesdropper noun

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web For six decades, scientists have tried to eavesdrop on radio signals from extraterrestrial societies. Sasha Frere-jones, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Nov. 2022 There's no way to eavesdrop on individual neurons from the outside of the brain, so invasive brain surgery is mandatory. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 27 Oct. 2010 Social networking sites such as Facebook have become immensely popular in recent years and present a unique opportunity for researchers to eavesdrop on the collective conversation of current societal issues. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 11 Mar. 2014 Doing their best to act naturally, the prosecutors cleared out and walked up the curved staircase to the mezzanine floor of the hotel, while the FBI agent and Miller hung back to eavesdrop on Cazes’ conversation at the neighboring table. WIRED, 15 Nov. 2022 The Gemini 4 mission captivated America, with families gathering around their televisions for updates and to eavesdrop as the astronauts checked on their worried but thrilled families on Earth. Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2022 Importantly, victims know that at any moment of any day, their phones could be used to spy on their surroundings and eavesdrop on their private conversations. Mike Fong, Forbes, 12 Aug. 2022 The cells of your body constantly eavesdrop on your thoughts from the wings of your mind. Bryan Robinson, Forbes, 10 Aug. 2022 Scientists have used night-vision goggles to show that nocturnal bees can see in extreme darkness, clip-on microphones to eavesdrop on the vibrational songs of leafhoppers, and electrodes to listen in on the pulses of electric fish. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 13 June 2022 See More

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

Word History


probably back-formation from eavesdropper, literally, one standing under the drip from the eaves

First Known Use

1606, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of eavesdrop was in 1606

Dictionary Entries Near eavesdrop

Cite this Entry

“Eavesdrop.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eavesdrop. Accessed 29 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


eaves·​drop ˈēvz-ˌdräp How to pronounce eavesdrop (audio)
: to listen secretly to private conversation
eavesdropper noun

Legal Definition


intransitive verb
eavesdropped; eavesdropping
: to listen secretly to what is being said in private without the consent of the speaker compare bug, wiretap
eavesdropper noun

More from Merriam-Webster on eavesdrop

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