My Ears are Burning Meaning
Definition: People are talking about someone; one is subconsciously aware that he or she is being talked about.
Origin of Ears are Burning
People typically say this phrase when they overhear someone talking about them.
For example, if a man was walking past his co-workers and heard them say something about him, he could say, “My ears are burning.” It is possible to use this after overhearing something good or something bad.
This idiom comes from the belief that a person’s ears burn whenever others are discussing him or her, even if the person isn’t present. This belief dates all the way back to ancient Rome.
Romans believed that if the right ear was burning, people were giving the person praise. If the left ear was burning, it meant that people were criticizing the person.
Some people think that this belief started because people sometimes flush with embarrassment, and their ears can become red, when they hear something either positive or negative about themselves.
Examples of Ears are Burning
The dialogue below shows two women who are meeting to go play tennis.
Mila: Hi, Betty! How are you?
Betty: I’m fine, thanks! Are your ears burning? I was just talking about you on the phone.
This conversation shows two friends who are discussing the bad day one of them had.
Tom: I had the worst day today. I went to the bathroom, and two of my co-workers came in and started saying negative things about me, like how they thought I was annoying. They didn’t realize I was in there.
Ben: How awkward.
Tom: I know. I tried to relieve the tension by jokingly saying, “My ears are burning,” but it didn’t work. They accused me of eavesdropping.
Ben: That’s rude! They were the ones gossiping about you. They should be embarrassed, not you.
This excerpt is from an article about an airline.
- Fine Gael MEP for Ireland Midlands North-West Mairead McGuinness said she was sure Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary was listening and expressed the view that his “ears are burning and that is no harm”. –Irish Times
The second excerpt is from an article about professional hockey teams.
- Well, when general manager Tim Connelly passed me in the hallway of the Pepsi Center on the day after the team’s final game, he said: “My ears are burning.” –Denver Post
The saying my ears are burning means someone is talking about someone else. Typically, the person who is being talked about says that his or her ears are burning.