- See under hornet.
- any large, stinging paper wasp of the family Vespidae, as Vespa crabro (giant hornet), introduced into the U.S. from Europe, or Vespula maculata (bald-faced hornet or white-faced hornet), of North America.
- any of various large social wasps of the family Vespidae, esp Vespa crabro of Europe, that can inflict a severe sting
- hornet’s nest a strongly unfavourable reaction (often in the phrase stir up a hornet’s nest)
Old English hyrnet, hurnitu “large wasp, beetle,” probably from Proto-Germanic *hurz-nut- (cf. Old Saxon hornut, Middle Dutch huersel, Dutch horzel, Old High German hornaz, German Hornisse “hornet”), from PIE imitative (buzzing) root *krs-, as preserved in Old Church Slavonic srusa, Lithuanian szirszu “wasp.” On this theory, the English word (as well as German Hornisse) was altered by influence of horn, to suggest either “horner” (from the sting) or “horn-blower” (from the buzz). Cf. also Old Saxon hornobero “hornet,” literally “trumpeter.”
see mad as a hornet; stir up a hornet’s nest.