An earwig on a leaf.
Origin of earwigMiddle English erwig ; from Old English earwicga ; from eare, ear + wicga, beetle, worm ; from Indo-European base an unverified form weik-, to wind, bend from source Classical Latin vicia, vetch: so called from the baseless notion that it particularly seeks out the human ear to crawl into
transitive verbear·wigged, ear·wig·ging, ear·wigs
Origin of earwigMiddle English erwig, from Old English ēarwicga : ēare, ear; see ear1 + wicga, insect; see wegh- in Indo-European roots. 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.”
(third-person singular simple present earwigs, present participle earwigging, simple past and past participle earwigged)
- To fill the mind of with prejudice by insinuations.
- To attempt to influence by persistent confidential argument or talk.
- (intransitive, UK, slang) To eavesdrop.
From Middle English erwigge, from Old English ēarwicga.