Shakespeare was the first to use beetle as a verb. In Hamlet he writes, “the cliff that beetles o’er his base into the sea”. Here beetles means that it hangs over – like a shaggy eyebrow?
Beetle-browed means having shaggy overhanging eyebrows, which is odd considering that
beetles don’t have eyebrows but big horns.
To beetle about or to beetle off means to make one’s way hurriedly, after the way beetles scuttle about.
Beetle-crushers are large boots, as you might guess.
The word beetle comes from the Old English bitela ‘little biter’ but its biological name is Coleoptera from the Greek koleos ‘sheath’ and pteron ‘wing’. It has two pairs of wings, the front pair being hardened and thickened into a shell to protect the back pair. When the beetle becomes airborne, the front wings open and release the back wings.
It is strange that we have a horror of the common beetle scurrying about, especially the black shiny one, yet add a bit of colour and we love them – eg ladybirds
The Volkswagon was called a Beetle, because it resembled one, with its rounded back and big ‘eyes’.
The scarab is a large dung beetle which was considered sacred in ancient Egypt – a symbol of Khepri, the early morning manifestation of the sun god Ra. The beetle’s habit of rolling a ball of dung across the ground was seen as similar to Khepri’s task of rolling the sun across the sky.
Amulets, such as jewellery, ornaments or seals, in the form of scarabs were very popular in 2000 BC. Egyptian pharaohs and the poor people used scarabs to bring them health and prosperity. They were seen as a symbol of the soul and were sometimes made
with colourful stones of green jasper, amethyst and carnelian.
There are many different types of beetles, thousands of new species being named every year. Sir David Attenborough has one named after him, as does Marco Polo and Charles Darwin. Even glowworms are beetles.