ship·​worm ˈship-ˌwərm How to pronounce shipworm (audio)
: any of various marine clams (especially family Teredinidae) that have a shell used for burrowing in submerged wood and a wormlike body and that cause damage to wharf piles and wooden ships

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Finding the rock-eating shipworm raises a broader issue. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 10 Dec. 2019 Shipway determined a species of naval shipworm called Teredo navalis was likely responsible for eating away the interior of the historic vessel. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Aug. 2022 Shipway spent the day Wednesday looking at shipworm samples under a microscope at Harvard University. Brian Amaral,, 11 Aug. 2022 The tissue connecting the two halves of wood is a shipworm. Brian Amaral,, 11 Aug. 2022 The shipworms created over 100 strains of bacteria — about 12 of which are being tested for their potential to create new medical treatments, CNN reported. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, 11 Apr. 2020 But the bacteria found from the shipworms that had been living inside the 60,000-year-old wood had never been discovered before. Alicia Lee, CNN, 7 Apr. 2020 The shipworms could also pick it apart faster than researchers can. Joanna Klein, New York Times, 31 Mar. 2020 Previous strains of shipworm bacteria have led to antibiotics that treat parasitic infections in the past, according to NOAA. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, 11 Apr. 2020 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1778, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of shipworm was circa 1778

Dictionary Entries Near shipworm

Cite this Entry

“Shipworm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


ship·​worm -ˌwərm How to pronounce shipworm (audio)
: any of various marine clams that have a wormlike body and a shell used for burrowing in underwater wood and that cause damage to ships and wharves

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