ci·​ca·​da sə-ˈkā-də How to pronounce cicada (audio) -ˈkä- How to pronounce cicada (audio)
plural cicadas also cicadae sə-ˈkā-(ˌ)dē How to pronounce cicada (audio)
: 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

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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 intertwine the cicada as a symbol of rebirth and immortality. Elizabeth Gamillo, Discover Magazine, 31 Oct. 2023 That number returned to 25 percent after the cicadas went back underground. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2023 From the cicadas singing in the countryside to the scent of urine in the city; from the violent hailstorm that whitens streets in a matter of seconds to the deep blue of the sea; from the aroma of helichrysum bushes in the sun to the juicy red of a slice of watermelon. Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker, 21 Aug. 2023 The sound of chirping cicadas, calling to their mates. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 3 Nov. 2023 Three broods of 13-year cicadas and 12 broods of 17-year cicadas exist in the eastern United States. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2023 Humid night air closed in, cicadas buzzing, the waters of the Albemarle Sound lapping in the background. Gregory S. Schneider, Washington Post, 12 Aug. 2023 The cicada hypothesis is actually a set of hypotheses that developed because of really strong overlap between the mortality event and the cicada Brood X distribution. Maddie Bender, Scientific American, 13 Aug. 2021 On a recent afternoon, Ms. Mitchell, who has a doctoral degree in nursing, walked through Birth Sanctuary to the echoes of cicadas, to check the progress of the new floor plan, complete with a hydrotherapy room and a full kitchen to keep the laboring women nourished. Emily Baumgaertner Erin Schaff, New York Times, 30 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cicada.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin, genus name, from Latin, cicada

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near cicada

Cite this Entry

“Cicada.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ci·​ca·​da sə-ˈkād-ə How to pronounce cicada (audio) -ˈkäd- How to pronounce cicada (audio)
: any of a family of stout-bodied insects that have a wide blunt head, large transparent wings, and the males of which make a loud buzzing noise

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