insect

noun
in·​sect | \ ˈin-ˌsekt \

Definition of insect

1a : any of a class (Insecta) of arthropods (such as bugs or bees) with well-defined head, thorax, and abdomen, only three pairs of legs, and typically one or two pairs of wings
b : any of numerous small invertebrate animals (such as spiders or centipedes) that are more or less obviously segmented not used technically
2 : a trivial or contemptible person

Illustration of insect

Illustration of insect

insect 1a: 1 labial palpus, 2 maxillary palpus, 3 simple eye, 4 antenna, 5 compound eye, 6 prothorax, 7 tympanum, 8 wing, 9 ovipositor, 10 spiracles, 11 abdomen, 12 metathorax, 13 mesothorax

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Other Words from insect

insect adjective

Did You Know?

The bodies of insects have segments, or divisions, so they appear to have a series of notches cut into them. This led the Greek philosopher Aristotle to give insects the name entomon “a thing cut into.” Entomon comes from the prefix en- “in,” combined with the verb temnein “to cut.” Later, when the Romans wanted a word for this kind of creature, they did not simply borrow the Greek word. Instead they translated it with the Latin word insectum, from the verb insecare “to cut into.” Insectum was borrowed into English as insect.

Examples of insect in a Sentence

a swarm of flying insects the magazine's editor in chief was notorious for treating staffers as insects, often not even bothering to learn their names

Recent Examples on the Web

This is creating a mismatch between when a plant flowers and when insects like bees are around to pollinate them. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Winters are warming faster than summers. These US cities could lose weeks of freezing days by 2050.," 21 Dec. 2018 The insects are not the only things that can hitchhike to other communities. Julia Terruso, Philly.com, "Why Philly is a particularly bad place to get bedbugs," 5 July 2018 The inspection was conducted as the result of a complaint, but the flying insects were the only violation McDonald’s registered during the visit. Kyle Arnold, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Orlando McDonald's, Winter Garden grilled cheese shop fail health inspections," 5 July 2018 The insects are also largely responsible for making West Nile virus endemic in the continental United States. Joyce Sakamoto, Washington Post, "Ticks and mosquitoes are ready to deliver disease in a bite, but you can stop them," 18 June 2018 So the researchers reasoned, that just like the fruits, the insects could be a means for dispersal, as long as their eggs can pass through the birds unharmed. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Stick Insects Are Easy Bird Food, and That Might Help Them Reproduce," 5 June 2018 The work grew out of an earlier engineering challenge the UW team tackled: an effort to create a wireless, robotic flying insect. Katherine Long, The Seattle Times, "Backpack-wearing bumblebees could buzz fields, tell farmers how crops are doing," 13 Dec. 2018 But how to overcome the strong revulsion most Westerners feel upon encountering insects in their food? Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Forget the guilt trip: There’s a better way to get people to eat more bugs," 2 Oct. 2018 The quarterly cleaning is a fumigating process that’s intended to kill any insects on the buses, the spokesperson said. Elizabeth Zwirz, Fox News, "SEPTA says bus pulled from service after woman reportedly believes to find bed bugs," 8 Sep. 2018

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

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First Known Use of insect

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for insect

Latin insectum, from neuter of insectus, past participle of insecare to cut into, from in- + secare to cut — more at saw

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Statistics for insect

Last Updated

17 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for insect

The first known use of insect was in 1601

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More Definitions for insect

insect

noun

English Language Learners Definition of insect

: a small animal that has six legs and a body formed of three parts and that may have wings

: an animal (such as a spider) that is similar to an insect

insect

noun
in·​sect | \ ˈin-ˌsekt \

Kids Definition of insect

1 : any of a group of small and often winged animals that are arthropods having six jointed legs and a body formed of a head, thorax, and abdomen Flies, bees, and lice are true insects.
2 : an animal (as a spider or a centipede) similar to the true insects
Hint: This meaning is not scientifically accurate but may be encountered in common everyday use.

insect

noun
in·​sect | \ ˈin-ˌsekt \

Medical Definition of insect

: any arthropod of the class Insecta

Other Words from insect

insect adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on insect

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with insect

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for insect

Spanish Central: Translation of insect

Nglish: Translation of insect for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of insect for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about insect

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