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earthworm

[urth-wurm] /ˈɜrθˌwɜrm/
noun
1.
any one of numerous annelid worms that burrow in soil and feed on soil nutrients and decaying organic matter.
2.
Archaic. a mean or groveling person.
Origin
late Middle English
1400-1450
1400-50; late Middle English ertheworm. See earth, worm
Regional variation note
The earthworm, a commonly used bait for angling, is also called an angleworm in the Northern U.S. and a fishworm in the Northern and Midland U.S. and in New England. It is called a fishing worm in parts of the Midland and Southern U.S., and a wiggler in the Southern U.S.
Because the worm often comes to the surface of the earth when the ground is cool or wet, it is also called a nightwalker in New England, a nightcrawler, chiefly in the Northern, North Midland, and Western U.S., and a dew worm, chiefly in the Inland North and Canada. It is also called a red worm in the North Central, South Midland, and Southern U.S.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for earth-worm

earthworm

/ˈɜːθˌwɜːm/
noun
1.
any of numerous oligochaete worms of the genera Lumbricus, Allolobophora, Eisenia, etc, which burrow in the soil and help aerate and break up the ground related adjective lumbricoid
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for earth-worm

earthworm

n.

1590s, from earth + worm (n.). In this sense Old English had eorðmata, also regnwyrm, literally "rain-worm." Old English also had angel-twæcce "earthworm used as bait," with second element from root of twitch, sometimes used in medieval times as a medicament.

For the blake Jawndes take angylltwacches, er þei go in to the erth in the mornynge and fry hem. Take ix or x small angyltwacches, and bray hem, and giff the syke to drynke fastynge, with stale ale, but loke þat thei bene grounden so small that þe syke may nat se, ne witt what it is, for lothynge. [Book of Medical Recipes in Medical Society of London Library, c.1450]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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