Body plan of a generalized insect. The body is usually divided into a head, thorax, and abdomen. …—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Any member of the class Insecta, the largest arthropod class, including nearly 1 million known species (about three-fourths of all animals) and an estimated 5–10 million undescribed species. Insect bodies have three segments: head, thorax (which bears three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings), and many-segmented abdomen. Many species undergo complete metamorphosis. There are two subclasses: Apterygota (primitive, wingless forms, including silverfish and bristletails) and Pterygota (more advanced, winged or secondarily wingless forms). The approximately 27 orders of Pterygota are generally classified by wing form: e.g., Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (dipterans), Heteroptera (bugs). Insects are found in almost all terrestrial and freshwater and some marine habitats.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on insect, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up insect? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.