Map comparing bookworm, the person who loves reading in different languages
In a book, you might find worms, moths, rats… or even horses

Bookworm is an umbrella term, more popular than scientific, for the holes caused by larvae of various types of insects. This includes a huge variety of species of beetles, moths and, cockroaches. It is also a term to describe humans, specifically the ones devoted to reading. Appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1580 for the first time.

This metaphor exists in other languages, on the map the languages are in pink, with some small variations like “book maggot” in Turkish. However, it is interesting to notice that there are two other groups that do not use the worm analogy: Brown languages that use rat or mouse (library, book or even reading rodents) and purple languages, which use the “book moth“.

In Danish, they’d call you a reading horse. In French, the decadent ink drinker. In German, you’d be a read-rat, a Romanian library mouse, an Indonesian book flea.

The history of the bookworm

There are of course some rarities like in any good book collection: Danish and Norweigian have “reading horse” and, Finnish has “reading larva“. Catalan “letter smitten“.

The most international, in almost all languages, are the Greek terms bibliophile (book friend), bilbiovore, and bibliophage (book eater). Some languages have their own calques like German Bücherfreund, Macedonian книгољубец (kniholjubec) and Russian книголю́б (knigoljúb) for the frist, book-lovers. The second, the book-eaters, exists in Russian too книгое́д (knigojed) but we can find it too in Spanish comelibros and tragalibros and Lithuanian knygų graužikas.

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2 Comments

  1. gonzalo torre

    They do not know it in the Basque language) 😉

    Liburutegi-sagu, liburuetako zomorro, paperjale.

    1. Thank you! We will add it

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