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From Middle English lurken, perhaps of North Germanic origin, related to Norwegian Nynorsk lurka (to sneak away, go slowly) and Swedish lurka (to dawdle, be slow in one's work); probably ultimately allied to Middle English luren, louren (to frown, lower, lurk), equivalent to lower +‎ -k (frequentative suffix).



lurk (third-person singular simple present lurks, present participle lurking, simple past and past participle lurked)

  1. To remain concealed in order to ambush.
    • 2013 June 29, “Travels and travails”, in The Economist[1], volume 407, number 8842, page 55:
      Even without hovering drones, a lurking assassin, a thumping score and a denouement, the real-life story of Edward Snowden, a rogue spy on the run, could be straight out of the cinema. But, as with Hollywood, the subplots and exotic locations may distract from the real message: America’s discomfort and its foes’ glee.
  2. To remain unobserved.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 4, in Moonfleet, London; Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      Thus my plight was evil indeed, for I had nothing now to burn to give me light, and knew that 'twas no use setting to grout till I could see to go about it. Moreover, the darkness was of that black kind that is never found beneath the open sky, no, not even on the darkest night, but lurks in close and covered places and strains the eyes in trying to see into it.
  3. To hang out or wait around a location, preferably without drawing attention to oneself.
    • 2005, Plato, Sophist. Translation by Lesley Brown. 235c.
      if we find the sophist lurking, we must round him up by royal command of the argument
  4. (Internet slang) To read an Internet forum without posting comments or making one's presence apparent.
  5. (UK, naval slang, transitive) To saddle (a person) with an undesirable task or duty.
    • 2015, Andrew Gordon, The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
      As junior dogsbody, he was lurked with this mission.

Derived terms[edit]



lurk (plural lurks)

  1. The act of lurking.
    • 1873, Charles Reade, chapter XXVIII, in A Simpleton: A Story of the Day [], volume III, London: Chapman and Hall, [], →OCLC, page 261:
      At two p.m. a man had called on him, and had produced one of his advertisements, and had asked him if that was all square—no bobbies on the lurk.
    • 1921: George Colby Borley, The Lost Horizon
      There were enemies on the lurk and time was against him.
    • 1955: John Maxwell Edmonds Longus, Daphnis et Chloe
      [] barked furiously and made at him as at a wolf, and before he could wholly rise from the lurk because of the sudden consternation, []
  2. (obsolete) A swindle.



  • (a swindle): 1873, John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary