any large, stinging paper wasp of the family Vespidae, as Vespa crabro (giant hornet), introduced into the U.S. from Europe, or Vespula maculata (bald-faced hornet or white-faced hornet), of North America.

Origin of hornet

before 900; Middle English harnete, Old English hyrnet(u); cognate with Old High German hornaz (> German Horniss); akin to horn
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hornet

Contemporary Examples of hornet

  • The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps also use the supersonic F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter to guide other jets to their targets.

  • But that's abstract enough to allow people to read into it what they will and avoid the hornet's nest of contemporary politics.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A Day For Politics Or Not

    Peter Beinart

    September 24, 2012

  • As any journalist who has poked at this hornet's nest can tell you, myself included, the wrath of the 4chan hive is no picnic.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Internet Mob's Porn Bomb

    Douglas Rushkoff

    January 10, 2010

Historical Examples of hornet

  • He went a-peekin' an' a-pryin' round my ears, as if he'd found a hornet's nest.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • Our peaceful convent was from thenceforth like a bee-hive into which a hornet had entered.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • He recognized the nest as that of a variety of hornet which is large and valiant.

    Rodney, the Ranger

    John V. Lane

  • The hornet was too small to be struck by the arrows of the lightning.

    The Book of Nature Myths

    Florence Holbrook

  • So the hornet is now an oriole, a bird that is loved by every one.

    The Book of Nature Myths

    Florence Holbrook

British Dictionary definitions for hornet



any of various large social wasps of the family Vespidae, esp Vespa crabro of Europe, that can inflict a severe sting
hornet's nest a strongly unfavourable reaction (often in the phrase stir up a hornet's nest)

Word Origin for hornet

Old English hyrnetu; related to Old Saxon hornut, Old High German hornuz
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 hornet

Old English hyrnet, hurnitu "large wasp, beetle," probably from Proto-Germanic *hurz-nut- (cf. Old Saxon hornut, Middle Dutch huersel, Dutch horzel, Old High German hornaz, German Hornisse "hornet"), from PIE imitative (buzzing) root *krs-, as preserved in Old Church Slavonic srusa, Lithuanian szirszu "wasp." On this theory, the English word (as well as German Hornisse) was altered by influence of horn, to suggest either "horner" (from the sting) or "horn-blower" (from the buzz). Cf. also Old Saxon hornobero "hornet," literally "trumpeter."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with hornet


see mad as a hornet; stir up a hornet's nest.

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