Skip to main content

worm

worm, common name for various unrelated invertebrate animals with soft, often long and slender bodies. Members of the phylum Platyhelminthes, or the flatworms, are the most primitive; they are generally small and flat-bodied and include the free-living planarians (of the class Turbellaria) as well as the parasitic flukes (class Trematoda) and tapeworms (class Cestoda). The nemertines, or ribbon worms (phylum Nemertinea), are often colorful marine carnivores with an extensible proboscis. The smallest species are only a fraction of an inch (less than 2.5 cm) long, while giants of the group range up to 90 ft (27 m) and are the longest of all invertebrates. Pseuodcoelomate worms include those in the phyla Rotifera, Gastrotricha, Kinorhyncha, Nematoda, and Nematomorpha. Of these, the largest phylum is the nematodes, which are probably the most numerous multicellular animals. Also called roundworms and threadworms, the nematodes include widespread free-living species as well as parasites, such as the hookworm. Other parasitic nematodes include Filaria, the cause of filariasis, which may result in elephantiasis; Trichinella, the cause of trichinosis; Ascaris, an intestinal parasite of humans, horses, and pigs; the pinworm, a parasite common in children; the Guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis, which is now restricted to a few N sub-Saharan African nations and is ingested as a larva in water and slowly emerges when full grown (up to 3 ft/91 cm) through a painful sore in the skin; and various other species that are agricultural pests. Like the nematodes, the hairworms, or horsehair worms, are unsegmented, but they are grouped separately in the phylum Nematomorpha. The larvae are parasitic, first in the bodies of aquatic insects and then within grasshoppers or beetles. The adult is about 6 in. (15 cm) long and covered with brown chitin, giving it a stiff appearance; since the worms were frequently found in watering troughs, superstition had it that they developed from horsehairs. The annelid worms (phylum Annelida) have segmented bodies, distinct heads, digestive tubes, circulatory systems, and brains. Appendages on each segment are used for walking or swimming. They include the earthworm, of the class Oligochaeta, the leech (class Hirudinea), and the marine annelids of the class Polychaeta. The sea mouse, the clam worm, and the feather duster worm belong to the latter group. The shipworm is a type of clam. The larvae of many insects are popularly called worms. Moth and butterfly larvae can be distinguished from adult animals called worms by the presence of several pairs of fleshy appendages at the rear end of the body (see caterpillar). However, other insect larvae are completely legless, while still others are equipped with six pairs of legs, as in adult insects (see larva). Insect larvae known as worms include the armyworm, bagworm, cutworm, and inchworm.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/worm

"worm." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/worm

worm

worm / wərm/ • n. 1. any of a number of creeping or burrowing invertebrate animals with long, slender, soft bodies and no limbs. • Phyla Annelida (segmented worms), Nematoda (roundworms), and Platyhelminthes (flatworms), and up to twelve minor phyla. ∎  short for earthworm. ∎  (worms) intestinal or other internal parasites. ∎  used in names of long, slender insect larvae, esp. those in fruit or wood, e.g., army worm, woodworm. ∎  used in names of other animals that resemble worms in some way, e.g., slow-worm, shipworm. ∎  a maggot supposed to eat buried corpses: food for worms. ∎  Comput. a self-replicating program able to propagate itself across a network, typically having a detrimental effect. 2. inf. a weak or despicable person (used as a general term of contempt). 3. a helical device or component, in particular: ∎  the threaded cylinder in a worm gear. ∎  the coiled pipe of a still in which the vapor is cooled and condensed. • v. 1. [intr.] move with difficulty by crawling or wriggling: I wormed my way along the roadside ditch. ∎  (worm one's way into) insinuate one's way into: the educated dealers may later worm their way into stockbroking. ∎  [tr.] move (something) into a confined space by wriggling it: I wormed my right hand between my body and the earth. ∎  (worm something out of) obtain information from (someone) by cunning persistence: I did manage to worm a few details out of him. 2. [tr.] treat (an animal) with a preparation designed to expel parasitic worms. 3. [tr.] archaic Naut. make (a rope) smooth by winding small cordage between the strands. DERIVATIVES: worm·like / -ˌlīk/ adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-3

"worm." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-3

worm

worm in archaic use, a serpent, snake, or dragon. Recorded from Old English (in form wyrm) the word originally also meant any animal which creeps or crawls, a reptile or insect.

The current meaning of an earthworm or similar invertebrate animal with a long slender soft body also dates from Old English, and gives rise to the allusive uses of worm as the type of weakness, humility, or nakedness.

Worm has also been used from Old English for a maggot, or in popular belief, an earthworm, supposed to eat dead bodies in the grave; in biblical allusion, this becomes one of the pains of hell, as in Mark 9:48.
even a worm will turn proverbial saying, mid 16th century, meaning that even a meek person will resist or retaliate if pushed too far.

See also the early bird catches the worm.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm

"worm." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm

worm

worm (arch.) serpent, dragon; †reptile; creeping limbless invertebrate; endoparasitic helminth; larva of insect, maggot OE.; spiral tool, etc. XVI. OE. wyrm, later wurm, corr. to OS., (O)HG. wurm (Du. worm), ON. ormr serpent, Goth. waurms :- Gmc. *wurmiz and *wurmaz, rel. to L. vermis worm. Gr. rhómos, rhómox woodworm, Lith. vařmas insect, midge.
Hence vb. hunt worms; get rid of, make one's way, etc. by subtle means XVI. Comps. worm-eaten XIV, worm-hole XVI.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-5

"worm." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-5

worm

worm Any of a large variety of wriggling, limbless creatures with soft bodies. Most worms belong to one or other of four main groups: annelids, flatworms, nematodes (roundworms), and ribbon worms.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/worm

"worm." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/worm

worm

worm (werm) n. any of various soft-bodied legless animals, including flatworms, nematode worms, earthworms, and leeches.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm

"worm." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm

WORM

WORM / wərm/ • abbr. write-once read-many, denoting a type of computer memory device.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"WORM." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"WORM." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-2

"WORM." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-2

worm

wormaffirm, berm, confirm, firm, germ, herm, midterm, perm, sperm, squirm, term, therm, worm •pachyderm • echinoderm •wheatgerm • endosperm •gymnosperm • isogeotherm •ragworm • flatworm • threadworm •tapeworm •eelworm, mealworm •silkworm • ringworm • inchworm •blindworm • lobworm • roundworm •slow-worm • screw worm •woodworm •bookworm, hookworm •bloodworm • lugworm • lungworm •earthworm

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"worm." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"worm." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-1

"worm." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-1

WORM

WORM (or worm) (wʔːm) Computing write once, read many (times)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"WORM." The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"WORM." The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-0

"WORM." The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/worm-0