the organ of hearing and equilibrium in vertebrates, in humans consisting of an external ear that gathers sound vibrations, a middle ear in which the vibrations resonate against the tympanic membrane, and a fluid-filled internal ear that maintains balance and that conducts the tympanic vibrations to the auditory nerve, which transmits them as impulses to the brain.
the external ear alone:
The hat completely covers his ears.
the sense of hearing:
sounds that are pleasing to the ear.
keen or sensitive perception of the differences of sound, especially sensitiveness to the quality and correctness of musical sounds:
an ear for music; a violinist with a good ear.
attention; heed:
to gain a person’s ear.
any part that resembles or suggests an ear in position or form, as the handle of a teacup.
Architecture, crossette.
Journalism. a small box in either upper corner of a newspaper page, usually the front page or split page, containing the name of or a symbol for the edition, a weather bulletin, a slogan, or the like.

a decorative feature at the upper end of a leg.
one of the decorative features at each end of a crest rail.

ears, Slang. earphones.
ear tuft.
be all ears, Informal. to give all one’s attention; listen:
We were all ears as the scandal was revealed.
bend an ear, to listen attentively:
to bend an ear to a request for aid.
bend someone’s ear, Informal. to talk to someone uninterruptedly and often so as to induce boredom:
He’ll bend your ear for hours if given the chance.
by ear, without reference to written or printed music:
to play the piano by ear.
fall on deaf ears, to be disregarded; pass unheeded:
Their pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears.
give ear, to pay attention; listen carefully.
Also, lend an ear.
go in one ear and out the other, to be heard but ignored; be put out of mind:
My repeated warnings to her went in one ear and out the other.
have / keep one’s ear to the ground, to keep well-informed about current trends; be shrewd or astute:
Because she had her ear to the ground, she made a large fortune in stock speculation.
have one’s ears on, Slang. to be listening through earphones to a radio, cassette player, telephone communication, or the like.
pin someone’s ears back, Slang. to give a person a sound beating; defeat a person utterly:
If he doesn’t behave himself, I’ll pin his ears back.
set by the ears, to cause to dispute or quarrel:
He’s a troublemaker who keeps trying to set the two other children by the ears.
set on one’s ear / ears, to excite or stir up; shock; amaze:
The presence of the movie star set the whole town on its ear.
turn a deaf ear to, to refuse to listen to or consider (a request, petition, etc.):
He turns a deaf ear to requests for loans.
up to one’s ears, deeply involved or occupied to full capacity:
We are up to our ears in work.
wet behind the ears. wet (def 19).
the part of a cereal plant, as corn, wheat, etc., that contains the flowers and hence the fruit, grains, or kernels.
to form or put forth ears.
to plow; cultivate.
Contemporary Examples

Finally, even those with the ear of the British monarchy have benefited from life in Londongrad.
Britain’s KGB Sugar Daddy Michael Weiss March 6, 2014

“The Show Goes On”- Lupe Fiasco Sometimes, ear candy is the best way to go.
Hottest Summer Songs: Anthems for 2011 Jaimie Etkin June 30, 2011

He kept switching the earpiece from one ear to the other, which I thought was his idea of a joke.
14 Juiciest Bits From Jane Lynch’s Memoir Jaimie Etkin September 13, 2011

He came over to where his son was sitting, he approached him, hugged him, whispered in his ear.
CNN Feels Sorry for Steubenville Rapists; World Can’t Believe its Ears Winston Ross March 17, 2013

Happy to have people—too many of them, unfortunately, who only pay attention with one ear—be her target audience.
What Hillary Can Teach Sarah Palin Tina Brown June 13, 2009

Historical Examples

He still sat in his chair, his ear bent to the echoing chamber of the violin.
Eben Holden Irving Bacheller

A voice broke on his ear, coming, it seemed, from another world.
Viviette William J. Locke

He had listened in vain; not the faintest sound did his ear detect.
Remember the Alamo Amelia E. Barr

He placed it to his ear, thinking it had stopped, but found himself mistaken.
In the Midst of Alarms Robert Barr

But perhaps I’ve said too much; the facts are for his own ear solely.
The Cock and Anchor Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

the organ of hearing and balance in higher vertebrates and of balance only in fishes. In man and other mammals it consists of three parts See external ear, middle ear, internal ear related adjectives aural otic
the outermost cartilaginous part of the ear (pinna) in mammals, esp man
the sense of hearing
sensitivity to musical sounds, poetic diction, etc: he has an ear for music
attention, esp favourable attention; consideration; heed (esp in the phrases give ear to, lend an ear)
an object resembling the external ear in shape or position, such as a handle on a jug
Also called (esp Brit) earpiece. a display box at the head of a newspaper page, esp the front page, for advertisements, etc
all ears, very attentive; listening carefully
by ear, without reading from written music
(slang) chew someone’s ear, to reprimand severely
fall on deaf ears, to be ignored or pass unnoticed
(Caribbean) have hard ears, to be stubbornly disobedient
(informal) a flea in one’s ear, a sharp rebuke
have the ear of, to be in a position to influence: he has the ear of the president
in one ear and out the other, heard but unheeded
keep one’s ear to the ground, have one’s ear to the ground, to be or try to be well informed about current trends and opinions
(informal) make a pig’s ear of, to ruin disastrously
one’s ears are burning, one is aware of being the topic of another’s conversation
(informal) out on one’s ear, dismissed unceremoniously
play by ear

to act according to the demands of a situation rather than to a plan; improvise
to perform a musical piece on an instrument without written music

prick up one’s ears, to start to listen attentively; become interested
set by the ears, to cause disagreement or commotion
(informal) a thick ear, a blow on the ear delivered as punishment, in anger, etc
turn a deaf ear, to be deliberately unresponsive
(informal) up to one’s ears, deeply involved, as in work or debt
(informal) wet behind the ears, inexperienced; naive; immature
the part of a cereal plant, such as wheat or barley, that contains the seeds, grains, or kernels
(intransitive) (of cereal plants) to develop such parts

“organ of hearing,” Old English eare “ear,” from Proto-Germanic *auzon (cf. Old Norse eyra, Danish øre, Old Frisian are, Old Saxon ore, Middle Dutch ore, Dutch oor, Old High German ora, German Ohr, Gothic auso), from PIE *ous- with a sense of “perception” (cf. Greek aus, Latin auris, Lithuanian ausis, Old Church Slavonic ucho, Old Irish au “ear,” Avestan usi “the two ears”).

The belief that itching or burning ears means someone is talking about you is mentioned in Pliny’s “Natural History” (77 C.E.). Until at least the 1880s, even some medical men still believed piercing the ear lobes improved one’s eyesight. Meaning “handle of a pitcher” is mid-15c. (but cf. Old English earde “having a handle”). To be wet behind the ears “naive” is implied from 1914. Phrase walls have ears attested from 1610s. Ear-bash (v.) is Australian slang (1944) for “to talk inordinately” (to someone).

“grain part of corn,” from Old English ear (West Saxon), æher (Northumbrian) “spike, ear of grain,” from Proto-Germanic *akhaz (genitive *akhizaz; cf. Dutch aar, Old High German ehir, German Ähre, Old Norse ax, Gothic ahs “ear of corn”), from PIE root *ak- “sharp, pointed” (cf. Latin acus “husk of corn,” Greek akoste “barley;” see acrid).

ear (ēr)

The organ of hearing, responsible for maintaining equilibrium as well as sensing sound and divided into the external ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

The part of this organ that is externally visible.

The sense of hearing.

ear 1

The vertebrate organ of hearing, which in mammals is usually composed of three parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The organs of balance are also located in the ear.

An invertebrate organ analogous to the vertebrate ear.

ear 2
The seed-bearing spike of a cereal plant, such as corn or wheat.

The organ of hearing, which also plays a role in maintaining balance. It is divided into the outer ear (from the outside to the eardrum), the middle ear, and the inner ear.


To listen; hear: Rosen Tapes To Be Eared By The Judge (1583+)

Related Terms

all ears, bend someone’s ear, blow it out, cauliflower ear, chew someone’s ear off, elephant ears, have something coming out of one’s ears, in a pig’s ass, not dry behind the ears, pin someone’s ears back, play it by ear, pound one’s ear, pretty ear, pull in one’s ears, put a bug in someone’s ear, put it in your ear, rabbit ears, stand around with one’s finger up one’s ass, steam was coming out of someone’s ears, stick it, talk someone’s ear off, warm someone’s ear

used frequently in a figurative sense (Ps. 34:15). To “uncover the ear” is to show respect to a person (1 Sam. 20:2 marg.). To have the “ear heavy”, or to have “uncircumcised ears” (Isa. 6:10), is to be inattentive and disobedient. To have the ear “bored” through with an awl was a sign of perpetual servitude (Ex. 21:6).

In addition to the idioms beginning with ear
ear to the ground, have one’s


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