verb (used without object), eaves·dropped, eaves·drop·ping.

to listen secretly to a private conversation.

verb (used with object), eaves·dropped, eaves·drop·ping.

Archaic. to eavesdrop on.

noun Also eaves·drip [eevz-drip] /ˈivzˌdrɪp/.

water that drips from the eaves.
the ground on which such water falls.

Origin of eavesdrop

before 900; (noun) Middle English evesdrope, evesdripe, Old English yfesdrype; as v., probably back formation from eavesdropper, late Middle English evisdroppyr, apparently literally, one who stands on the eavesdrop in order to listen to conversations inside the house; see eave, drop, drip
Related formseaves·drop·per, nounan·ti·eaves·drop·ping, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for eavesdropping

snoop, overhear, spy, wire, tap, monitor, pry, bug, wiretap

Examples from the Web for eavesdropping

Contemporary Examples of eavesdropping

Historical Examples of eavesdropping

  • Was it right for her to be eavesdropping when older people were talking, the little goose?


    Emile Zola

  • Besides, she did not wish her father and mother to know she had been eavesdropping.

  • In it, his words were not vulnerable to the sono-beam's eavesdropping.

    Zero Data

    Charles Saphro

  • Their eavesdropping vibrations, with audible projection, were upon me.

  • He did not mean the blinking, eavesdropping humbug to force his action.

    End of the Tether

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for eavesdropping


verb -drops, -dropping or -dropped

(intr) to listen secretly to the private conversation of others
Derived Formseavesdropper, noun

Word Origin for eavesdrop

C17: back formation from earlier evesdropper, from Old English yfesdrype water dripping from the eaves; see eaves, drop; compare Old Norse upsardropi
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 eavesdropping



c.1600, probably a back-formation from eavesdropper. Related: Eavesdropping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper