Old English wæps, wæsp "wasp," altered (probably by influence of Latin vespa) from Proto-Germanic *wabis- (source also of Old Saxon waspa, Middle Dutch wespe, Dutch wesp, Old High German wafsa, German Wespe, Danish hveps), from PIE *wopsa-/*wospa- "wasp" (source also of Latin vespa, Lithuanian vapsa, Old Church Slavonic vosa "wasp," Old Irish foich "drone"), perhaps from root *(h)uebh- "weave" (see weave (v.)). If that is the correct derivation, the insect would be so called for the shape of its nest. Of persons with wasp-like tendencies, from c. 1500. Wasp-waist in reference to women's figures is recorded from 1870 (wasp-waisted is from 1775).
Old English hyrnet, hurnitu "large wasp, beetle, gadfly," probably from Proto-Germanic *hurz-nut- (source also of Old Saxon hornut; Middle Dutch huersel, Dutch horzel (with diminutive suffix); Old High German hornaz, German Hornisse "hornet"), from a PIE imitative (buzzing) root; compare Old Church Slavonic srusa, Lithuanian širšu "wasp." On this theory, the English word (as well as German Hornisse) was altered by influence of horn, to suggest either "horner" (from the sting) or "horn-blower" (from the buzz). Compare also Old Saxon hornobero "hornet," literally "trumpeter." Figurative of troublesome and persistent attacks.
"song of lamentation," 1630s, from Greek thrēnōdia "lamentation," from thrēnos "dirge, lament" + ōidē "ode" (see ode). Greek thrēnos probably is from PIE imitative root *dher- (3) "to drone, murmur, hum;" source also of Old English dran "drone," Gothic drunjus "sound," Greek tenthrene "a kind of wasp."
1570s, "weasel-like animal of Egypt," from Latin ichneumon, from Greek ikhneumon "ichneumon," literally "searcher, tracker," perhaps so called because it hunts crocodile eggs, from ikhneuein "hunt for, track," from ikhnos "a track, footstep, trace, clue," which is of unknown origin. Used by Aristotle for a species of wasp that hunts spiders (a sense attested in English from 1650s).