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[oh-ver-heer] /ˌoʊ vərˈhɪər/
verb (used with object), overheard, overhearing.
to hear (speech or a speaker) without the speaker's intention or knowledge:
I accidentally overheard what they were saying.
Origin of overhear
First recorded in 1540-50; over- + hear
Related forms
overhearer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for overhear
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Wishing to know what they were up to, I stole slyly to where I could overhear their proceedings.

  • Not another word of this just now, or they may overhear us.'

    Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens
  • He was glad to be thus isolated—he could overhear no criticism or comments.

    Cleo The Magnificent

    Louis Zangwill
  • He tried to overhear their conversation but it was in a language which he did not recognize.

    Poisoned Air Sterner St. Paul Meek
  • Then you must tell him, of course, even if you did overhear.

    Joy (First Series Plays) John Galsworthy
British Dictionary definitions for overhear


verb -hears, -hearing, -heard
(transitive) to hear (a person, remark, etc) without the knowledge of the speaker
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
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Word Origin and History for overhear

"to hear what one is not meant to hear," 1540s, from over- + hear. The notion is perhaps "to hear beyond the intended range of the voice." Old English oferhieran also meant "to not listen, to disregard, disobey" (cf. overlook for negative force of over; also Middle High German überhaeren, Middle Dutch overhoren in same sense). Related: Overheard; overhearing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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