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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
1540-50; over- + hear
Related forms
overhearer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for overheard
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Possibly Krupp had overheard the conversation, or divined its nature.

    The Price of Love Arnold Bennett
  • Come, I beg your pardon that I overheard you, and yet it shall not need.

  • I listened, but so profound was her sleep, that not even her breathings could be overheard.

    Edgar Huntley Charles Brockden Brown
  • A wine-glass had also been called for, for Miss Sophia, whose weeping had been overheard.

    Deerbrook Harriet Martineau
  • The situation had been made clear to him by the angry exclamations he had just overheard.

    Ole Mammy's Torment Annie Fellows Johnston
British Dictionary definitions for overheard


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 overheard



"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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