The word eavesdrop has a poetically beautiful etymology.
It comes from Middle English, born of the Old English word, yfesdrype.
Eaves are, of course, those bits of a house’s roof that stick out from the house.
Historically, the eavesdrip was the line on the ground where the rain or morning dew dripped from the eaves. In time, this became a legal term, used to determine – in part – how close one house could be built to the next house. In time, the droplets falling from the eaves acquired the moniker eavesdrops. Soon after that, nosey people who stood close enough to their neighbors’ homes to hear what was going on inside were called eavesdroppers, since standing so close put them in the eavesdrip. Soon, the British legal system happily applied the term eavesdropper to nosey listeners.
Is that poetry, or what?
Good followers, what have you to say about this transformation, or about your experiences being eavesdropped upon, or possibly eavesdropping? Writers out there, I would submit that we find more eavesdroppers in fiction than in real life – true or unfounded hogwash?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymoniline.com, RandomHouse.com, The Word Detective, & The OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.