from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A spider.
  • noun Figuratively, a peevish, testy, ill-natured person.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete A spider.
  • noun North of Eng. A peevish, ill-natured person.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A spider.
  • noun obsolete except in dialects A peevish or ill-natured person.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old English ātorcoppe ("spider"), corresponding to atter (“poison, venom”) +‎ cop (“spider”). The latter is still to be found in the English word cobweb.


  • Not yet on the list but I must borrow / buy: The Ring of Words, by three senior editors of the OED, who talk about Tolkien's contributions to the Dictionary and rather more interestingly to me about certain individual words used in Tolkien's fiction attercop, hobbit, Smeagol, and more.

    Plenty books..... ah, books....

  • In my native Lancashire dialect an attercop is a spider: it can be found in modern Danish also as edderkop.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XIV No 4

  • a spider an ‘attercop’ -- a word, by the way, still in popular use in the

    English Past and Present


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  • A peevish ill-natured person (used in northern Yorkshire); spider (from old english - it's also used in the Hobbit. In old english "attor" means poison and "cop" means head. In modern Norwegian a spider is called edderkopp)

    December 24, 2008

  • According to "The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary", the suffix "-cop" actually just means "spider" in Old English and is a divergent form related to "cob", as in the compound word "cobweb" - literally "spider web" - which dates as far back as 1300.

    Tolkien also uses "attercop" in his poem "Errantry" in the lovely alliterative lines,

    "...tarried for a little while

    in little isles, and plundered them;

    and webs of all the attercops

    he shattered them and sundered them."

    January 16, 2011

  • The tuffet Miss Muffet once sat atop
    Was home to a peace-loving attercop
    Who ransomed tranquility
    With a show of hostility
    To make her quite maddening chatter stop.

    July 11, 2014

  • See tuffet.

    July 11, 2014

  • Compare gangewifre.

    May 8, 2018