ci·​ca·​da | \sə-ˈkā-də, -ˈkä-;sī-ˈkā- \
plural cicadas also cicadae\-​ˈkā-​(ˌ)dē, -​ˈkä-​ \

Definition of cicada 

: any of a family (Cicadidae) of homopterous insects which have a stout body, wide blunt head, and large transparent wings and the males of which produce a loud buzzing noise usually by stridulation

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Members of a family of insects, cicadas have a stout body, wide blunt head, two pairs of transparent wings, prominent compound eyes, and three simple eyes. Most of the 1,500 known species are found in tropical deserts, grasslands, and forests. Males produce loud noises by vibrating membranes near the base of the abdomen. Most North. American cicadas produce rhythmical ticks, buzzes, or whines, though the "song" of some species is musical. Periodic cicadas, including the well-known 17-year cicada (often erroneously called the 17-year locust) and 13-year cicada appear in regular cycles. Their larvae burrow into the ground, where they remain for 13 or 17 years, feeding on juices sucked from roots. Then they emerge in large numbers to live aboveground as adults for a single week.

Examples of cicada in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Some have compared the taste of a cicada to popcorn, bacon, even crab. New York Times, "A Story of Survival Revived by the Cicadas’ Loud (and Crunchy) Return," 22 June 2018 These insect parents resemble tiny cicadas, with transparent wings held over their bodies as mini-roofs. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, "Cool, rainy spring prompts alert for fire blight on Valley trees, plants | Idaho Statesman," 26 Apr. 2018 The nature of his wound was the clock-cicada winding down. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, "Lucie Brock-Broido, Inventive Poet, Is Dead at 61," 10 Mar. 2018 The first sound is a cicada’s piercing shrill, which violently cuts out mid-chirp. Carlos Valladares, San Francisco Chronicle, "Argentine director Lucrecia Martel to attend Berkeley retrospective of her work," 16 Apr. 2018 There are those who drift off by instructing their Amazon Alexa or Google Home to play recordings of babbling brooks and cicadas. Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times, "Tools for Sleeping Well While Traveling," 30 Mar. 2018 The cacophony of Shahid’s cries and the cicada drone almost felled me. Sorayya Khan, Longreads, "The Cities in Me," 8 Feb. 2018 And understandably so: To their many detractors, redistricting consultants surface every 10 years, cicada-like, to ravage the landscape of minority parties in state legislatures and Congress. Michael Wines, New York Times, "Just How Bad Is Partisan Gerrymandering? Ask the Mapmakers," 29 Jan. 2018 Different species—there are some 3,000 cicada species in total—have different frequencies and patterns, enabling them to tell each other apart. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "This Bug's Penis Is a Built-In Violin," 7 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cicada.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of cicada

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cicada

New Latin, genus name, from Latin, cicada

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cicada

Dictionary Entries near cicada





cicada bird

cicada killer


Statistics for cicada

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cicada

The first known use of cicada was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cicada



English Language Learners Definition of cicada

: a large insect


ci·​ca·​da | \sə-ˈkā-də \

Kids Definition of cicada

: an insect that has transparent wings and a stout body and the males of which make a loud buzzing noise

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on cicada

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cicada

Spanish Central: Translation of cicada

Nglish: Translation of cicada for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cicada

Comments on cicada

What made you want to look up cicada? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!