Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who enjoys reading books and spends a lot of time doing it

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The compound noun bookworm is a combination of the nouns ‘book’ and ‘worm’. It was first used in the 16th century.


This week sees two events dedicated to encouraging and celebrating reading: Sunday was National Read a Book Day in the UK, while today is International Literacy Day, a UNESCO-sponsored event whose theme this year is the less-than-snappy ‘Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond‘. We looked at this Day and at the word literacy on the blog last year, so this year it’s the turn of bookworm, the colourful term for someone who has their nose permanently stuck in a book. The connotations of ‘worm‘ are generally unpleasant, making it a less than flattering component of a word that refers to an overwhelming love of reading, which almost everyone agrees is A Good Thing. Words in other languages are equally uncomplimentary. German has ‘Leseratte’ (‘reading rat’) or ‘Bücherwurm’, Italian ‘topo di biblioteca’ which translates as ‘library rat (or mouse)’, while French has the similar term ‘rat de bibliothèque’ and Spanish ‘ratón de biblioteca’. If you want to avoid the term bookworm, you can use alternatives like ‘great reader’ or ‘avid reader’. The newly online Macmillan Collocations Dictionary offers a lot more possibilities; you can explore them here.


“May I a small house, and a large garden have! And a few friends, and many books, both true…”
(Abraham Cowley)

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.’
(Logan Pearsall Smith)

Related words

bibliophile, logophile, avid reader

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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