any one of numerous annelid worms that burrow in soil and feed on soil nutrients and decaying organic matter.
Archaic. a mean or groveling person.

Origin of earthworm

First recorded in 1400–50, earthworm is from the late Middle English word ertheworm. See earth, worm

Regional variation note

The earthworm, a commonly used bait for angling, is also called an angleworm in the Northern U.S. and a fishworm in the Northern and Midland U.S. and in New England. It is called a fishing worm in parts of the Midland and Southern U.S., and a wiggler in the Southern U.S.
Because the worm often comes to the surface of the earth when the ground is cool or wet, it is also called a nightwalker in New England, a nightcrawler, chiefly in the Northern, North Midland, and Western U.S., and a dew worm, chiefly in the Inland North and Canada. It is also called a red worm in the North Central, South Midland, and Southern U.S. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for earthworm

Contemporary Examples of earthworm

  • Rossellini enthusiastically acts out various sex acts while costumed as an earthworm, a spider, a bee, and other invertebrates.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Isabella Does Bug Porn

    Will Doig

    October 31, 2008

Historical Examples of earthworm

  • War was war in those days, not like this earthworm war that has replaced it.

  • The Worm Lizard, found in Florida, is scarcely any larger around than an earthworm.


    Alan Douglas

  • There are parts of me in every star and in every earthworm, and I don't know which is which or where!


    Emily Hilda Young

  • Lucian Horace Ovid Virgil, too, did have seeing of that earthworm.

    The Story of Opal

    Opal Whiteley

  • Make drawings showing the external structure of the earthworm.

British Dictionary definitions for earthworm



any of numerous oligochaete worms of the genera Lumbricus, Allolobophora, Eisenia, etc, which burrow in the soil and help aerate and break up the groundRelated adjective: lumbricoid
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 earthworm

1590s, from earth + worm (n.). In this sense Old English had eorðmata, also regnwyrm, literally "rain-worm." Old English also had angel-twæcce "earthworm used as bait," with second element from root of twitch, sometimes used in medieval times as a medicament.

For the blake Jawndes take angylltwacches, er þei go in to the erth in the mornynge and fry hem. Take ix or x small angyltwacches, and bray hem, and giff the syke to drynke fastynge, with stale ale, but loke þat thei bene grounden so small that þe syke may nat se, ne witt what it is, for lothynge. [Book of Medical Recipes in Medical Society of London Library, c.1450]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper