secretly listening to another’s conversation


eavesdrop = lauschen, abhören, horchen, zuhören (heimlich) — warrantless eavesdropping = Abhöraktion ohne richterlichen Beschluss — (electronic) eavesdropping operation = Lauschangriff — defense against eavesdropping = Lauschabwehr



“Huawei may have EAVESDROPPED on Dutch mobile network’s calls”

Jon Henley - Guardian Headline

Did you


to listen to someone’s private conversation without them knowing

Cambridge Dictionary


Eavesdrop is a compound word combining eaves and drop. Eaves (always plural) refer to the edge of a roof that hangs over the side of a building. The word “eaves” comes from the Old English “efes”, meaning “edge of a roof.”

The word drop in this context refers to “drip”, which led to the Old English word “yfesdrype” or “eavesdrip”, (which later became eavesdrop), which described the act of rainwater dripping over the eaves or the ground underneath.

In other words, at first eavesdrop had nothing to do with snooping and spying.

By the late 15th century, the verb eavesdrop came to mean standing on the eavesdrop of a house to listen to what is happening inside.

Over time it came to mean listening to any conversation without the participants knowing or realizing it. These days, governments and hackers no longer have to stand under the eaves to listen in. All they need is Internet access.


While serving as America’s Ambassador to Moscow in 1945, Averell Harriman was given a hand-carved Great Seal of The United States. Not until 1952 was it discovered that the gift, proudly displayed on the wall of Harriman’s study, contained a listening device, which had allowed Soviet agents to EAVESDROP on his private conversations.


bugging, earwigging, EAVESDROPPING, keeping under surveillance, listening in (on), snooping (on), spying (on), tapping, wiretapping

PRACTICE OWAD in an English conversation, discuss something like:

"I sometimes wonder if someone is EAVESDROPPING when I see a mobile phone on the table.”

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:


Paul Smith

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