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eaves +‎ drop; the "listening" sense derives from the notion of the listener standing in the area denoted by the physical sense.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈiːvzˌdɹɒp/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈivzˌdɹɑp/
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eavesdrop (third-person singular simple present eavesdrops, present participle eavesdropping, simple past and past participle eavesdropped)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To hear a conversation one is not intended to hear; to listen in.
    I hope nobody was eavesdropping on our conversation last night, since it got so personal.
  2. (zoology) To listen for another organism's calls, so as to exploit them.
    • 1993, David W. Nagorsen, Robert Mark Brigham, Royal British Columbia Museum, Bats of British Columbia (page 109)
      [] Eastern Red Bat will eavesdrop on the sonar calls of other red bats to locate potential insect prey.
    • 2014, Ken Yasukawa, Animal Behavior: How and Why Animals Do the Things They Do:
      Frog-biting midges also depend on eavesdropping for reproduction, and one would predict similarly strong selection to evolve auditory adaptations for hearing and localizing calls of their hosts.

Usage notes[edit]

To eavesdrop usually implies the listener is purposefully trying to hear the conversation of others. To overhear is more often accidental.


  • (hear conversation one is not intended to hear): overhear

Derived terms[edit]



eavesdrop (countable and uncountable, plural eavesdrops)

  1. The dripping of rain from the eaves of a house.
  2. The space around a house on which such water drips.
  3. (countable) A concealed aperture through which an occupant of a building can surreptitiously listen to people talking at an entrance to the building.
  4. (countable) The act of intentionally hearing a conversation not intended to be heard.
    Were you having a little eavesdrop on us last night?