insect

noun
in·​sect | \ ˈin-ˌsekt How to pronounce insect (audio) \

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

Both photographers also revealed giant sphinxes visiting the ghosts—but the insects weren't carrying any pollinia. Douglas Main, National Geographic, "Discovery reveals secrets about how ghost orchids reproduce," 11 July 2019 When mosquitoes test positive, the program increases its prevention efforts in the areas where the insects were found. Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star, "Mosquitoes in Marion County test positive for West Nile virus, health officials say," 2 July 2019 Over an area 10 miles wide and 15 miles long, the National Weather Service’s radar reportedly detected the insects. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Gigantic ladybug swarm over California shows up on weather radar," 6 June 2019 Residents in parts of Northern Ohio are battling a massive swarm of mayflies as thousands of the tiny insects blanketed the state this week. Fox News, "Swarm of mayflies invade Ohio, insects detected on local weather radars," 30 June 2019 The test results were reported Wednesday after one batch of the virus-containing insects was found in Lincolnwood and two batches in Morton Grove, according to a news release from the district. Daniel I. Dorfman, chicagotribune.com, "West Nile-infected mosquitoes found in Lincolnwood, Morton Grove," 27 June 2019 During that year, the state had 90 of the nests, which can contain more than 15,000 of the stinging insects. USA TODAY, "Summer snow, yellow jacket super nests, laundered cat: News from around our 50 states," 26 June 2019 The insects exude a sugary waste called honeydew, and in their great numbers, this becomes excessive. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "‘This is going to be a bad one’: A new pest is causing quarantines in Va. and Pa.," 26 June 2019 Their efforts include planting more of the insects' favorite food plants, protecting the butterflies in their pupal stage, and even ordering monarch pupae from commercial suppliers. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Declining monarch-butterfly populations may be hard to restore," 25 June 2019

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

18 Jul 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 How to pronounce insect (audio) \

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 How to pronounce insect (audio) \

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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