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  1. any of numerous insects of the order Coleoptera, characterized by hard, horny forewings that cover and protect the membranous flight wings.
  2. (loosely) any of various insects resembling the beetle, as a cockroach.
verb (used without object), bee·tled, bee·tling.
  1. Chiefly British. to move quickly; scurry: He beetled off to catch the train.

Origin of beetle1

before 900; late Middle English betylle, bityl, Old English bitela (bitel- biting (bit- bite + -el adj. suffix) + -a noun suffix)


  1. a heavy hammering or ramming instrument, usually of wood, used to drive wedges, force down paving stones, compress loose earth, etc.
  2. any of various wooden instruments for beating linen, mashing potatoes, etc.
verb (used with object), bee·tled, bee·tling.
  1. to use a beetle on; drive, ram, beat, or crush with a beetle.
  2. to finish (cloth) with a beetling machine.

Origin of beetle2

before 900; Middle English betel, Old English bētl, bȳtel hammer (cognate with Middle Low German bētel chisel), equivalent to bē(a)t- beat + -il noun suffix
Related formsbee·tler, noun


  1. projecting; overhanging: beetle brows.
verb (used without object), bee·tled, bee·tling.
  1. to project; jut out; overhang: a cliff that beetles over the sea; his mustache and beetling brows; thick eyebrows beetling over blue eyes.
  2. to hang or tower over in a threatening or menacing manner: The prospect of bankruptcy beetled over him.

Origin of beetle3

1325–75; Middle English; back formation from beetle-browed
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for beetling

Historical Examples

  • He was like a beetling mountain, always hanging over my head.

    The Woman Thou Gavest Me

    Hall Caine

  • Entered also Mordaunt Merrilac, as beetling of brow as ever.

    A Son of the City

    Herman Gastrell Seely

  • He rose majestically as Fischko entered and turned on him a beetling frown.

  • The old Commoner scowled, and his beetling brows hid for a moment his eyes.

    The Clansman

    Thomas Dixon

  • Drawing nearer, they get under the shadow of its beetling bluffs.

    The Lone Ranche

    Captain Mayne Reid

British Dictionary definitions for beetling


  1. any insect of the order Coleoptera, having biting mouthparts and forewings modified to form shell-like protective elytraRelated adjective: coleopteran
  2. a game played with dice in which the players draw or assemble a beetle-shaped form
verb (intr ; foll by along, off, etc)
  1. informal to scuttle or scurry; hurry

Word Origin

Old English bitela; related to bitol teeth, bit, bītan to bite


  1. a heavy hand tool, usually made of wood, used for ramming, pounding, or beating
  2. a machine used to finish cloth by stamping it with wooden hammers
verb (tr)
  1. to beat or pound with a beetle
  2. to finish (cloth) by means of a beetle

Word Origin

Old English bīetel, from bēatan to beat; related to Middle Low German bētel chisel, Old Norse beytill penis


  1. (intr) to overhang; jut
  1. overhanging; prominent
Derived Formsbeetling, adjective

Word Origin

C14: perhaps related to beetle 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for beetling



beating tool, Old English bietel, from Proto-Germanic *bautilo-z, from *bautan "to beat" (see beat (v.)).



type of insect, Old English bitela "beetle," literally "little biter," from bitel "biting," related to bitan "to bite" (see bite). As a nickname for the original Volkswagen car, 1946, translating German Käfer.



"project, overhang," c.1600, back-formation from bitelbrouwed "grim-browed, sullen" (mid-14c.), from bitel "sharp-edged, sharp" (c.1200), probably a compound from Old English *bitol "biting, sharp," related to bite, + brow, which in Middle English meant "eyebrow," not "forehead." Meaning "to overhang dangerously" (of cliffs, etc.) is from c.1600. Related: Beetled; beetling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper