[ buhg ]
/ bʌg /
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verb (used with object), bugged, bug·ging.Informal.
to install a secret listening device in (a room, building, etc.) or on (a telephone or other device): The phone had been bugged.
to bother; annoy; pester: She's bugging him to get her into show business.
Verb Phrases
bug off, Slang. to leave or depart, especially rapidly: I can't help you, so bug off.
bug out, Slang. to flee in panic; show panic or alarm.
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Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Idioms about bug

    put a bug in someone's ear, to give someone a subtle suggestion; hint: We put a bug in his ear about a new gymnasium.

Origin of bug

First recorded in 1615–25; 1885–90 for def. 4; 1910–15 for def. 5a; 1915–20 for def. 14; 1945–50 for def. 15; earlier bugge “beetle,” apparently alteration of Middle English budde, Old English -budda “beetle”; the sense “leave” (in bug off) is obscurely related to other senses and perhaps is of distinct origin


un·bugged, adjective

Other definitions for bug (2 of 3)

[ buhg ]
/ bʌg /

noun Obsolete.
a bogy; hobgoblin.

Origin of bug

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English bugge “scarecrow, demon, hobgoblin”; further origin unknown

Other definitions for bug (3 of 3)

[ buhg; Polish, Russian book ]
/ bʌg; Polish, Russian buk /

Also called West·ern Bug . a river in E central Europe, rising in W Ukraine and forming part of the boundary between Poland and Ukraine, flowing NW to the Vistula River in Poland. 450 miles (725 km) long.
Also called South·ern Bug . a river in SW Ukraine flowing SE to the Dnieper estuary. About 530 miles (850 km) long.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a basic definition of bug?

The word bug is used loosely to mean an insect or creature that resembles an insect. Bug is also used to mean a glitch or imperfection, as in a computer program. Bug is used as a verb to mean to bother or annoy someone. Bug has many other uses as a noun and verb.

The word bug is used as a catch-all term for small, creepy pests. In general usage, it is used interchangeably with the word insect to refer to things like ants, bees, beetles, and even spiders.

Scientists, though, use the words bug and insect to mean slightly different things. Insect refers to organisms that belong to Insecta, a very large class of animals whose members have a three-part body, six legs, and usually two pairs of wings. Scientists use bug (or true bug) to refer to the members of the order Hemiptera, which is within the Insecta class. Hemiptera members include cicadas, aphids, and stink bugs.

  • Used in a sentence: He sat in the tent to try and avoid the bugs outside. 

Bug is used informally to refer to glitches or defects, especially when discussing electronics.

  • Used in a sentence: The company didn’t release the new laptop until it had fixed all of the bugs. 

As a verb, bug means to annoy or to bother someone.

  • Used in a sentence: Tom was bugged by his son jumping up and down while begging for ice cream.

Where does bug come from?

The first records of bug come from around 1590. Its origin is unknown. It may be related to an earlier bug, meaning “bogeyman,” whose first records come from around 1425. The origin of this bug is also unknown.

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What are some other forms related to bug?

  • unbugged (adjective)
  • buggy (adjective)

What are some synonyms for bug?

What are some words that share a root or word element with bug

What are some words that often get used in discussing bug?

How is bug used in real life?

Bug is a very common word used loosely to refer to insects or similar creatures that very few people are fond of.

Try using bug!

Which of the following creatures is least likely to be called a bug?

A. wasp
B. mouse
C. mosquito
D. dragonfly

How to use bug in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bug (1 of 4)

/ (bʌɡ) /

verb bugs, bugging or bugged informal
See also bug out

Word Origin for bug

C16: of uncertain origin; perhaps related to Old English budda beetle

British Dictionary definitions for bug (2 of 4)

/ (bʌɡ) /

obsolete an evil spirit or spectre; hobgoblin

Word Origin for bug

C14 bugge, perhaps from Middle Welsh bwg ghost. See also bugbear, bugaboo

British Dictionary definitions for bug (3 of 4)

/ (bʌɡ) /

a past tense and past participle of big 2

British Dictionary definitions for bug (4 of 4)

/ (Russian buk) /

Also called: Southern Bug a river in E Europe, rising in W Ukraine and flowing southeast to the Dnieper estuary and the Black Sea. Length: 853 km (530 miles)
Also called: Western Bug a river in E Europe, rising in SW Ukraine and flowing northwest to the River Vistula in Poland, forming part of the border between Poland and Ukraine. Length: 724 km (450 miles)
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

Scientific definitions for bug

[ bŭg ]

An insect belonging to the suborder Heteroptera. See more at true bug.
An insect, spider, or similar organism. Not in scientific use.


The word bug is often used to refer to tiny creatures that crawl along, such as insects and even small animals that are not insects, such as spiders and millipedes. But for scientists the word has a much narrower meaning. In the strictest terms bugs are those insects that have mouthparts adapted for piercing and sucking. The mouthparts of these bugs are contained in a beak-shaped structure. Thus scientists would classify a louse but not a beetle or a cockroach as a bug. In fact, scientists often call lice and their relatives true bugs to distinguish them better from what everyone else calls “bugs.”
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for bug


A generic term that describes a malfunction of undetermined origin in a computer or other electronic device.

notes for bug

The term originated in the 1940s when the examination of a large computer revealed that an actual insect had landed on one of the circuits, shorting it out and shutting the machine down.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with bug


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.