English edit

 
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A head louse under illumination and magnified.

Etymology edit

From Middle English lous, lows, lowse, from Old English lūs, from Proto-West Germanic *lūs, from Proto-Germanic *lūs, from Proto-Indo-European *lewH-.

See also West Frisian lûs, Dutch luis, German Low German Luus, German Laus; also Welsh llau (lice), Tocharian B luwo, maybe Sanskrit यूका (yūkā).

Pronunciation edit

  • (UK) IPA(key): /laʊs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aʊs

Noun edit

louse (plural lice or louses)

  1. A small parasitic wingless insect of the order Psocodea.
  2. (colloquial, dated, not usually used in plural form) A contemptible person; one who is deceitful or causes harm.
    • 1946, Joseph Thompson Shaw, The hard-boiled omnibus: early stories from Black Mask, page 388:
      He said: "Thanks, friend; but you're wasting your time. You better warn Crocker. If that louse makes a play for me, he'll get hit with Chicago lightning!"
    • 1949, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend (song)
      It's then that those louses go back to their spouses. Diamonds are a girl's best friend.
    • 1965 December, Phil Ochs, “That Was The Year That Weren't”, in Cavalier:
      […] as she raised her guitar for the last loud chord, an unseen louse let loose a rubber-tipped arrow that landed right on her dark-skinned forehead.

Usage notes edit

  • When used as a term of abuse, the plural is typically louses, though lice is also possible.
  • Informally, it is common to use the plural form lice attributively, e.g. lice check.

Synonyms edit

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Verb edit

louse (third-person singular simple present louses, present participle lousing, simple past and past participle loused)

  1. To remove lice from; to delouse.
    • 1938, Norman Lindsay, Age of Consent, 1st Australian edition, Sydney, N.S.W.: Ure Smith, published 1962, →OCLC, page 108:
      There were a few wire-netted enclosures to keep young chickens from the hawks, but the fowls wandered at large, coming about the hut to ruffle their feathers in the dust, and louse themselves, and pick up scraps.

Synonyms edit

Translations edit

Anagrams edit

Galician edit

Verb edit

louse

  1. inflection of lousar:
    1. first/third-person singular present subjunctive
    2. third-person singular imperative

Middle English edit

Noun edit

louse

  1. Alternative form of lous