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[oh-ver-heer] /ˌoʊ vərˈhɪər/
verb (used with object), overheard, overhearing.
to hear (speech or a speaker) without the speaker's intention or knowledge:
I accidentally overheard what they were saying.
Origin of overhear
1540-50; over- + hear
Related forms
overhearer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for overheard
  • Some people were overheard discussing the possibility of browned butter facials.
  • Anyone who could have overheard them would have laughed at them, but they were serious.
  • Conversations between prisoners could be overheard anywhere, and were closely monitored.
  • Outside, a parachutist drifts overheard, dangling lazily in the late afternoon sun.
  • Of course, the potential targets should not be overheard speaking or otherwise be too obvious.
  • The clouds were pretending to be clouds when in fact they were overheard comments.
  • Talk story where writer quotes various people he's overheard in the course of forty-five minutes one morning.
  • The real lesson of this overheard conversation was not its specific content but the fact that it could be heard at all.
  • He speaks as if trying to be overheard rather than heard, his low modulations carrying a concise noun-verb punch.
  • At times, one overheard snippets of conversation among the legal teams about their lives outside the courtroom.
British Dictionary definitions for overheard


verb -hears, -hearing, -heard
(transitive) to hear (a person, remark, etc) without the knowledge of the speaker
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 overheard



"to hear what one is not meant to hear," 1540s, from over- + hear. The notion is perhaps "to hear beyond the intended range of the voice." Old English oferhieran also meant "to not listen, to disregard, disobey" (cf. overlook for negative force of over; also Middle High German überhaeren, Middle Dutch overhoren in same sense). Related: Overheard; overhearing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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