A small elongated insect with a pair of terminal appendages that resemble pincers. The females typically care for their eggs and young until they are grown.
Order Dermaptera: several families‘He published papers illustrating discontinuous variation in floral symmetry and in terminal forceps of earwigs and the hornlike processes seen in certain male beetles.’
- ‘Even earwigs can be useful because they eat aphids, codling moth eggs and the red spider mite.’
- ‘These stories have little basis in fact, although earwigs have been known to cause a mildly painful bite when sat upon or handled.’
- ‘The earwigs will hide in these and every morning if you tip out the contents you'll get not alone the hay filling but quite a number of insects as well.’
- ‘Rising late in the morning to tents mysteriously full of earwigs we set off for a look.’
intransitive verbintransitive verb earwigs, intransitive verb earwigging, intransitive verb earwigged[no object]
1British informal Secretly listen to a conversation.
- ‘he looked behind him to see if anyone was earwigging’
- ‘After the conference speeches are over, I drift around the hotel bars earwigging on conversations.’
- ‘Like most writers, Dewar is a good listener, earwigging on other's conversations.’
- ‘I earwigged into a conversation with her last season and she told me what a beautiful horse it was.’
- ‘A malfunction is being blamed for some callers being able to listen in to other people's calls - and presumably, other people earwigging into their conversations.’
- ‘In the above situation it is quite appropriate to look the other way whilst earwigging and they will pretend you can't hear their conversation.’
- ‘He's looking a little distracted, as he's trying to earwig on the Edge's conversation.’
- ‘They went on about benefits, making ends meet and why New Labour is so out of touch with the plight of those on the dole as I nodded surreptitiously into my pint, earwigging all the while.’
- ‘Random people preceding me were confronting various BBC folk and questioning them, and I dutifully earwigged.’
- ‘Earwigging on the crew, we heard nothing but praise.’
- ‘Our venue is on Charlotte Street, where the tables are placed close enough for you to earwig on each other's ideas for another makeover series.’
- ‘Quite often when we chat about not-specifically-work-things, Jim earwigs and contributes.’
- ‘In one corner was a hefty table of corporate lawyers (no interesting earwigging there); in another sat the insurance posse; over to my left were the corporate finance crew.’
- ‘They finally got her into the office, so I started earwigging outside. ‘Look, if you promise not to come into the store again nicking, we'll let you go.’’
- 1.1 archaic with object Influence (someone) by secret means.
- ‘he was so sure to be earwigged in private that what he heard or said openly went for little’
Old English ēarwicga, from ēare ‘ear’ + wicga ‘earwig’ (probably related to wiggle); the insect was once thought to crawl into the human ear.