OED Word of the Day
Your word for today is: earwig, v.
[‘ trans. To importune or pester, esp. in private. Also: to influence or bias (a person) secretly; to insinuate oneself into the confidence of (a person).’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈɪəwɪɡ/, U.S. /ˈɪ(ə)rˌwɪɡ/
Etymology: earwig n.
Compare slightly earlier earwigger n.
1. trans. To importune or pester, esp. in private. Also: to influence or bias (a person) secretly; to insinuate oneself into the confidence of (a person).
1804 W. Cooke Mem. C. Macklin 213 He earwigged Barry..so constantly about the power of a Manager.
1818 Ld. Brougham Let. 25 June in A. Aspinall Ld. Brougham & Whig Party (1939) 89 Two or three sly characters who go about earwigging the powerful ones for their own purposes.
1838 Dickens Oliver Twist III. xlv. 186 Suppose he was to do all this..not grabbed, trapped, tried, earwigged by the parson..but of his own fancy.
1839 Blackwood’s Edinb. Mag. 45 767 Each secretary of state is earwigged by a knot of sturdy beggars.
1919 H. Drummond Betrayers iv. 40 It is better we should eat together openly than have it said you earwigged me in private.
2010 C. Wilkie Fall of House of Zeus xix. 233 Someone from Grady Tollison’s law firm had already ‘earwigged’ the judge on behalf of Johnny Jones.
2. Brit. and Irish English.
a. intr. To listen covertly to another person’s conversation, to eavesdrop. Also with on.
1865 Leaves from Diary Celebrated Burglar 10/1 Everything being shut up outside, there was little chance of being observed ‘ear-wigging’.
1966 P. Boyle At Night All Cats are Grey 93 By this time all hands were earwigging… Conversation had dried up.
1984 Times 19 May 16/3 Since the Tacchini affair I have made a point of earwigging on their conversations.
1993 S. McAughtry Touch & Go xviii. 140 She..asked me if she could speak to me privately, but that only made the others lean forward and earwig more intently.
2011 Y. Edwards Cupboard Full Coats viii. 173, I was styling it.., like no way had I been earwigging, just coming down the stairs naturally.
b. trans. To listen covertly to (a private conversation). Also: to eavesdrop on (a person or people engaged in conversation).
1974 Private Eye 9 Aug. 6/3 On the third day of the trial an even more curious development occurred, after Mr Humphrey Potts, for North, had earwigged a juror’s conversation outside.
1989 J. Sullivan Only Fools & Horses (2000) II. 6th Ser. Episode 5. 107/1 That’s right. Her mum and dad said I could… You git, you was earwigging my conversation.
1995 Empire Nov. 137/1 Barbara Stanwyck is the bed-ridden woman who overhears a plan to bump her off while earwigging a phone conversation.
2012 Independent 17 Aug. 40/3 Music can..prevent people ear-wigging the diners at the next table, but it shouldn’t be intrusive.
†3. trans. To fill the head of (a person) with wild or eccentric notions. Obs.
1880 R. Browning Pietro 340 The people clamour, Hold their peace, now fight, now fondle, earwigged through the brains.
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