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

Charlie Hunnam, who played the lead, had had to be airlifted out at one point after waking up with an insect flapping deep in his ear canal. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "James Gray’s Journey from the Outer Boroughs to Outer Space," 9 Sep. 2019 In Massachusetts, the future for birds looks dire, as the warming is expected to alter food sources and affect everything from when flowers bloom to when important insects emerge. David Abel, BostonGlobe.com, "Guardian of the birds: State’s ornithologist warns we can’t do without them," 8 Sep. 2019 Many insect eaters like warblers have already flown the coop. Cori Brown, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Cori Brown: Nature signals a time to recharge," 7 Sep. 2019 Yet that often has little effect in containing the disease, which is spread by tiny white insects called mealybugs. Olivia Konotey-ahulu / Bloomberg, Time, "Cocoa Trees in West Africa Are Being Ravaged By a Disease With No Known Cure," 6 Sep. 2019 Karner says people have always paid for insects, but the internet has changed the industry. Jani Actman, National Geographic, "Bug smuggling is big business," 5 Sep. 2019 Feed pumpkin plants and remove any pumpkins that have soft spots or insect damage. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, "September gardening: 22 things to do this month," 5 Sep. 2019 The highway department imported millions of tiny insects from Peru that were known to feast on psyllids but do other harm, and today there is no more psyllid threat. Thomas D. Elias, The Mercury News, "Opinion: The end in sight for a perilous pesticide in California," 3 Sep. 2019 Leaving their dirty bowls or food out can attract many different types of rodents and insects. Leah Napoliello, Houston Chronicle, "BBB on Homes: Home pest control takes center stage," 31 Aug. 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

12 Sep 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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