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[wurm] /wɜrm/
Zoology. any of numerous long, slender, soft-bodied, legless, bilaterally symmetrical invertebrates, including the flatworms, roundworms, acanthocephalans, nemerteans, gordiaceans, and annelids.
(loosely) any of numerous small creeping animals with more or less slender, elongated bodies, and without limbs or with very short ones, including individuals of widely differing kinds, as earthworms, tapeworms, insect larvae, and adult forms of some insects.
something resembling or suggesting a worm in appearance, movement, etc.
Informal. a groveling, abject, or contemptible person.
the spiral pipe in which the vapor is condensed in a still.
(not in technical use) screw thread (def 1).
Also called worm screw. a rotating cylinder or shaft, cut with one or more helical threads, that engages with and drives a worm wheel.
something that penetrates, injures, or consumes slowly or insidiously, like a gnawing worm.
worms, (used with a singular verb) Pathology, Veterinary Pathology. any disease or disorder arising from the presence of parasitic worms in the intestines or other tissues; helminthiasis.
(used with a plural verb) Metallurgy. irregularities visible on the surfaces of some metals subject to plastic deformation.
the lytta of a dog or other carnivorous animal.
computer code planted illegally in a software program so as to destroy data in any system that downloads the program, as by reformatting the hard disk.
verb (used without object)
to move or act like a worm; creep, crawl, or advance slowly or stealthily.
to achieve something by insidious procedure (usually followed by into):
to worm into another's favor.
Metallurgy. craze (def 8a).
verb (used with object)
to cause to move or advance in a devious or stealthy manner:
The thief wormed his hand into my coat pocket.
to get by persistent, insidious efforts (usually followed by out or from):
to worm a secret out of a person.
to insinuate (oneself or one's way) into another's favor, confidence, etc.:
to worm his way into the king's favor.
to free from worms:
He wormed the puppies.
Nautical. to wind yarn or the like spirally round (a rope) so as to fill the spaces between the strands and render the surface smooth.
Origin of worm
before 900; Middle English (noun); Old English wyrm, dragon, serpent, worm; cognate with Dutch worm, German Wurm, Old Norse ormr; akin to Latin vermis
Related forms
wormer, noun
wormlike, wormish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for worming
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Niplightly was worming his way out at the back of Parson Quiggin.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • He is worming his way into my uncle's confidence to an extraordinary extent.

    The Man Who Knew Edgar Wallace
  • worming is generally resorted to as a preparative for serving.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • It was a long, tiresome business this worming their way out.

    The Convert

    Elizabeth Robins
  • worming his way down the path he fled from the flashes of blue light.

    El Diablo Brayton Norton
  • worming their way into his family, and now stealing from his mine.

    Shaman Robert Shea
  • As they were worming their way up they heard another piece of news.

  • They followed, worming their way in the same fashion about a dozen yards.

    'Tween Snow and Fire Bertram Mitford
  • Then he slipped into the brush, worming his way to the other side.

    Marching on Niagara Edward Stratemeyer
British Dictionary definitions for worming


any of various invertebrates, esp the annelids (earthworms, etc), nematodes (roundworms), and flatworms, having a slender elongated body related adjective vermicular
any of various insect larvae having an elongated body, such as the silkworm and wireworm
any of various unrelated animals that resemble annelids, nematodes, etc, such as the glow-worm and shipworm
a gnawing or insinuating force or agent that torments or slowly eats away
a wretched or spineless person
anything that resembles a worm in appearance or movement
a shaft on which a helical groove has been cut, as in a gear arrangement in which such a shaft meshes with a toothed wheel
a spiral pipe cooled by air or flowing water, used as a condenser in a still
a nontechnical name for lytta
(anatomy) any wormlike organ, structure, or part, such as the middle lobe of the cerebellum (vermis cerebelli) Technical name vermis
(computing) a program that duplicates itself many times in a network and prevents its destruction. It often carries a logic bomb or virus
to move, act, or cause to move or act with the slow sinuous movement of a worm
foll by in, into, out of, etc. to make (one's way) slowly and stealthily; insinuate (oneself)
(transitive; often foll by out of or from) to extract (information, a secret, etc) from by persistent questioning
(transitive) to free from or purge of worms
(transitive) (nautical) to wind yarn around (a rope) so as to fill the spaces between the strands and render the surface smooth for parcelling and serving
See also worms
Derived Forms
wormer, noun
wormlike, wormish, adjective
Word Origin
Old English wyrm; related to Old Frisian wirm, Old High German wurm, Old Norse ormr, Gothic waurms, Latin vermis, Greek romos woodworm


noun acronym (computing)
write once read many times: an optical disk that enables users to store data but not change it
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 worming



Old English wurm, variant of wyrm "serpent, dragon," also in later Old English "earthworm," from Proto-Germanic *wurmiz (cf. Old Saxon, Old High German, German wurm, Old Frisian and Dutch worm, Old Norse ormr, Gothic waurms "serpent, worm"), from PIE *wrmi-/*wrmo- "worm" (cf. Greek rhomos, Latin vermis "worm," Old Russian vermie "insects," Lithuanian varmas "insect, gnat"), possibly from root *wer- (3) "turn" (see versus).

The ancient category of these was much more extensive than the modern, scientific, one and included serpents, scorpions, maggots, and the supposed causes of certain diseases. For substitution of -o- for -u-, see come. As an insult meaning "abject, miserable person" it dates from Old English.



"to move like a worm," c.1600, from worm (n.). In figurative senses attested from 1620s, suggesting patient, sinuous progress. Related: Wormed; worming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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worming in Medicine

worm (wûrm)

  1. Any of various invertebrates, as those of the phyla Annelida, Nematoda, Nemertea, or Platyhelminthes, having a long, flexible, rounded or flattened body, often without obvious appendages.

  2. Any of various crawling insect larvae, such as a grub or a caterpillar, having a soft, elongated body.

  3. Any of various unrelated animals, such as the shipworm or the slowworm, resembling a worm in habit or appearance.

  4. worms Infestation of the intestines or other parts of the body with worms or wormlike parasites; helminthiasis.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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worming in Science
  1. Any of various invertebrate animals having a soft, long body that is round or flattened and usually lacks limbs. The term worm is used variously to refer to the segmented worms (or annelids, such as the earthworm), roundworms (or nematodes), flatworms (or platyhelminths), and various other groups.

  2. A destructive computer program that copies itself over and over until it fills all of the storage space on a computer's hard drive or on a network.

Our Living Language  : Earthworms are one of many types of worms, including those of the flat and round species. Over a century ago, Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms and wrote The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits, an entire book that described his research on earthworm behavior and intelligence and further explained how important earthworms are to agriculture. "Long before [the plow] existed," he wrote, "the land was, in fact, regularly plowed and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world." Darwin was referring to the way that earthworms naturally mix and till soil, while both improving its structure and increasing its nutrients. As they tunnel in the soil, earthworms open channels that allow in air and water, improving drainage and easing the way for plants to send down roots; they also carry nutrients from deep soils to the surface. Earthworms eat plant material in the soil, decaying leaves, and leaf litter, and their own waste provides nourishment for plants and other organisms. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen, an important plant nutrient. It is estimated that each year earthworms in one acre of land move 18 or more tons of soil.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for worming



  1. A despicable person; bastard, jerk: Cut that out, you little worm (fr 800s)
  2. (also tapeworm) A program that copies itself from one computer to another in a network, does not destroy data, but can clutter up a system: which is now classified as a ''worm'' because the writer of the program did not mean to do damage/ A worm, in computerese, is one of the many varieties of viruses that infect computers (late 1980s+ Computer)

Related Terms

can of worms

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with worming
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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