Definition of insect
1a : any of numerous small invertebrate animals (as spiders or centipedes) that are more or less obviously segmented —not used technicallyb : any of a class (Insecta) of arthropods (as bugs or bees) with well-defined head, thorax, and abdomen, only three pairs of legs, and typically one or two pairs of wings
2 : a trivial or contemptible person
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>
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.
Origin and Etymology of insect
Latin insectum, from neuter of insectus, past participle of insecare to cut into, from in- + secare to cut — more at saw
First Known Use: 1601
INSECT Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of insect for English Language Learners
: 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 Defined for Kids
Definition of insect for Students
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.
History for insect
The distinct parts into which insects’ bodies are divided—head, thorax, and abdomen—inspired the Greek name used for them by the philosopher Aristotle: entomon, the “notched” or “segmented” animal. (Entomon is a noun derived from the verb entemnein, “to cut up” or “to cut into.”) The Romans used insectum, a literal translation of Greek entomon, as their name for the creatures, and this Latin word has provided us with the ordinary English word for insects.
Medical Definition of insect
: any arthropod of the class Insecta
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Seen and Heard
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