1. any of numerous elongate, nocturnal insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of large, movable pincers at the rear of the abdomen.
verb (used with object), ear·wigged, ear·wig·ging.
  1. to fill the mind of with prejudice by insinuations.

Origin of earwig

before 1000; Middle English erwigge, Old English ēarwicga ear insect; from the notion that it enters people's ears. See wiggle
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for earwig

Historical Examples of earwig

  • She had the intense maternal instinct and the brain, such as it is, of an earwig.

    The Rough Road

    William John Locke

  • I must devote a short division of this chapter to the earwig.

    Animal Intelligence

    George J. Romanes

  • Neither man nor horse can enter, in this respect, into competition with the earwig.

    Everyday Objects

    W. H. Davenport Adams

  • The earwig is not more likely than any other insect to enter the ear.

  • (i) Reincarnation, as an earwig, or a Hottentot, or an emperor.

    Up and Down

    Edward Frederic Benson

British Dictionary definitions for earwig


  1. any of various insects of the order Dermaptera, esp Forficula auricularia (common European earwig), which typically have an elongated body with small leathery forewings, semicircular membranous hindwings, and curved forceps at the tip of the abdomen
verb -wigs, -wigging or -wigged
  1. informal to eavesdrop
  2. (tr) archaic to attempt to influence (a person) by private insinuation

Word Origin for earwig

Old English ēarwicga, from ēare ear 1 + wicga beetle, insect; probably from a superstition that the insect crept into human ears
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 earwig

(Forficula auricularia), Old English earwicga, from eare (see ear (n.1)) + wicga "beetle, worm," probably related to wiggle. So called from the ancient and widespread (but false) belief that the garden pest went into people's ears. Cf. French perce-oreille, German ohr-wurm.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper