ear·wig (îr’wĭg′)
n. Any of various elongate insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of usually pincerlike appendages protruding from the rear of the abdomen. Also called dermapteran.
tr.v. ear·wigged, ear·wig·ging, ear·wigs To attempt to influence by persistent confidential argument or talk.
[Middle English erwig, from Old English ēarwicga : ēare, ear; see EAR(Cf. ear)1 + wicga, insect; see wegh-.]
Word History: According to a widespread folk tradition, earwigs enter the ears of sleeping people and burrow into their brains, eating a network of tunnels through the head and even leaving their eggs to hatch within the skull. In fact, this belief is completely false. An earwig, being a creature that prefers moist dark places, may very, very rarely find its way into the human ear, but it will not eat through the eardrum. Earwigs eat a variety of plants, insects, and decaying organic matter, not human flesh. But the folk belief in the deadly earwig is very old and has remained persistent. An Old English text of around AD 1000 even includes a remedy with ēarwicgan, "against earwigs," in which a thick blade of grass or straw is used to drive the earwig out of the ear. The Modern English word earwig itself descends from Old English ēarwicga, a compound of ēar, "ear," and wicga, a word denoting some kind of insect, and this compound obviously reflects the folk tradition about the earwig's horrific habits. The second part of the compound, wicga, is no doubt a member of the same family of words that includes the Modern English verbs wiggle (from or akin to the Middle Low German wiggelen) and wag (from Middle English waggen). This group of terms denotes quick movements of various sorts, and the prehistoric ancestor of the Old English word wicga probably meant something like "wiggler."

Word Histories. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • earwig — ► NOUN ▪ a small elongated insect with a pair of terminal appendages that resemble pincers. ► VERB (earwigged, earwigging) informal ▪ eavesdrop. ORIGIN Old English, from are «ear» + wicga «earwig»; the insect was once thought to crawl into the… …   English terms dictionary

  • Earwig — Ear wig ([=e]r w[i^]g ), n. [AS. e[ a]rwicga; e[ a]re ear + wicga beetle, worm: cf. Prov. E. erri wiggle.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) Any insect of the genus {Forficula} and related genera, belonging to the order {Dermaptera} (formerly {Euplexoptera}). They… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Earwig — Ear wig ([=e]r w[i^]g ), v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Earwigged} ([=e]r w[i^]gd ); p. pr. & vb. n. {Earwigging} ([=e]r w[i^]g*g[i^]ng).] To influence, or attempt to influence, by whispered insinuations or private talk. No longer was he earwigged by the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Earwig — Earwig, est le label d une compagnie de disque indépendante. Artistes produits : Homesick James Portail de la musique Catégorie : Label de musique indépendant …   Wikipédia en Français

  • earwig — (n.) (Forficula auricularia), O.E. earwicga, from eare (see EAR (Cf. ear) (1)) + wicga beetle, worm, probably related to WIGGLE (Cf. wiggle). So called from the ancient and widespread (but false) belief that the garden pest went into people s… …   Etymology dictionary

  • earwig — [ir′wig΄] n. [ME erwig < OE earwicga < eare, EAR1 + wicga, beetle, worm < IE base * weik , to wind, bend > L vicia, VETCH: so called from the baseless notion that it particularly seeks out the human ear to crawl into] any of an order… …   English World dictionary

  • Earwig — For other uses, see Earwig (disambiguation). Earwigs Temporal range: 208–0 Ma …   Wikipedia

  • earwig — /ear wig /, n., v., earwigged, earwigging. n. 1. any of numerous elongate, nocturnal insects of the order Dermaptera, having a pair of large, movable pincers at the rear of the abdomen. v.t. 2. to fill the mind of with prejudice by insinuations.… …   Universalium

  • earwig — UK [ˈɪə(r)ˌwɪɡ] / US [ˈɪrˌwɪɡ] noun [countable] Word forms earwig : singular earwig plural earwigs a brown insect with a pair of curved parts at the back end of its body …   English dictionary

  • earwig — [OE] A colloquial Old English term for ‘insect’ was wicga (which would have been pronounced something like ‘widger’). It probably came from the same prehistoric Germanic base (*wig ) as produced English wiggle [13], and so is roughly equivalent… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

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