Earworm

The term earworm came into its present use in the 1980s. We will examine the definition of the term earworm, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

An earworm is a portion of a song or tune that continually runs through a person’s mind, to the point of irritation. Almost everyone at some time in his life has been subjected to an earworm. An earworm can be difficult to get rid of, though experts suggest a task that involves working memory as an effective way to short circuit an earworm. The term earworm came into use in English in the early 1980s from the German term ohrwürmer, which means earworm. In use in Germany since the 1960s, the term was first published by Cornelius Eckert, a German psychiatrist. Before the 1980s, the term earworm denoted a certain pest that consumes ears of corn. The plural form of earworm is earwarwormorms.

Examples

The program will be filled with fun, interactive science-, math- and literacy-building topics boosted with activities like making a pan flute or thumb piano, learning about sound effects, an earworm, the music in your DNA and more. (The Lewistown Sentinel)

I’m going to give you an unwanted earworm in a moment, but first the good news: Lew Ford, the outfielder who last played for the Twins in … wait, that can’t be right … 2007 (wow, I’m old) and last appeared in the majors in 2012 is still playing professional baseball. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

These are commonly known as earworm songs—those sticky tunes that continue to play in your head long after you wish you could skip to the next track. (Time Magazine)