beetle (n.1)

insect of the order Coleoptera, Middle English bitil, from Old English bitela "beetle," apparently originally meaning "little biter, biting insect," from bitel "biting," from Proto-Germanic *bitan, from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting.

By normal evolution it would be *bittle, but it seems to have been influenced by beetle (n.2). Sometimes applied to soft insects, as black beetle, an old name for the cockroach. As a nickname for the original Volkswagen car, 1946, translating German Käfer.

beetle (v.)

"project, overhang," apparently a Shakespearean back-formation (in "Hamlet," 1602) from beetle-browed, from Middle English bitelbrouwed "grim-browed, sullen" (mid-14c.), from bitel "sharp-edged, sharp" (c. 1200), probably a compound from Old English *bitol "biting, sharp" (related to bite (v.)), + brow, which in Middle English meant "eyebrow," not "forehead." The meaning "to overhang dangerously" (of cliffs, etc.) is attested from c. 1600. Related: Beetled; beetling.

beetle (n.2)

"heavy wooden mallet used to drive wedges, pack earth, etc.," Middle English betel, from Old English bietl "mallet, hammer," from Proto-Germanic *bautilo-z, from *bautan "to beat," from PIE root *bhau- "to strike."

updated on October 06, 2022