Tag Archives: define earworm


Definition: Noun. A song or melody that sticks in one’s mind, often being an annoyance or unpleasant (also known as musical imagery repetition and involuntary musical imagery).

Etymology: earworm is a loan translation (in lexicographer jargon, a calque; typically a word-for-word or morpheme-by-morpheme translation) of the German word Ohrwurm that means “catchy tune” or “earwig.” Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed) and website indicates that the word was introduced in 1802, but does not cite a source. According to lexicographer Paul McFedries, the earliest printed citation that he could find was by Howard Rheingold in an article titled “Untranslatable Words” published in the The Whole Earth Review (December 22, 1987) that defines and explains the term in great detail.

Research indicates that 98% of people experience earworms, that typically last 15-30 seconds. The most likely candidate for an earworm is a simple piece of music, like a jingle. Not surprisingly, musicians and people with obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to experience earworms than the average population.

There are a variety of ways to get rid of annoying earworms — some more effective than others. According to the experts at Wired magazine the most effective way to to simply listen to the entire song or to do some math.

For further reading: www.wordspy.com/words/earworm.asp

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