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Is there a term for a catchy tune that stays in your head after you hear it? The Germans call it an earworm.

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The German word is Ohrwurm. – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Aug 13 '10 at 19:41
I call it "Back in Black." :-) – Edward Tanguay Aug 13 '10 at 23:34
+1 Thanks for teaching me a new word :-) – Vincent McNabb Aug 14 '10 at 0:12
Mark Twain wrote the short story Punch, Brothers, Punch about this phenomenon, but didn't have a specific name for it. I have heard earworm used for it for quite a while, although I don't know when the earliest usage I heard was. – Peter Shor Jul 28 '11 at 14:52
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I have never heard of a single word, but the phrase "stuck in your head" comes to mind.

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In English it is called earworm or sticky tune.

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Sticky tune? May I ask where you heard that? I don't remember running across it in the U.S. – mmyers Aug 13 '10 at 19:51
+1 I did not know that was a German-origin term – cori Aug 13 '10 at 20:40
+1 for earworm. – Vincent McNabb Aug 14 '10 at 0:08
I've never heard of either of these words. – delete Aug 14 '10 at 3:22
"Earworm" as an English word is a bit of a neologism, but catching on fast. I heard it about ten years ago. I didn't know it was a calque from German though. – AlexC Aug 24 '10 at 13:58


Having said which, I prefer to use "earworm" these days because "jingle" has such an overwhelming association with advertising.

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Most songs, especially of the pop variety, tend to contain a "hook" which is designed to, well, hook into your mind. Not quite the answer to your question but a part of it. You can read more about musical hooks on Wikipedia.

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Perhaps songs like this ought to be known as "hookers". Oh wait, that's something quite different... – Mark Embling Aug 16 '10 at 13:00

Sometimes the word "brainwashed" is used to express the state of having a tune stuck in one's head:

I'm brainwashed with that tune

Note that applies to the state of the person, not to the tune itself.

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