moth·​ball | \ ˈmȯth-ˌbȯl How to pronounce mothball (audio) \

Definition of mothball

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a ball made formerly of camphor but now often of naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene and used to keep moths from clothing
2 mothballs plural : a condition of protective storage put the ships in mothballs after the war also : a state of having been rejected for further use or dismissed from further consideration


mothballed; mothballing; mothballs

Definition of mothball (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to deactivate (something, such as a ship) and prevent deterioration chiefly by dehumidification
2 : to withdraw from use or service and keep in reserve : put aside

Examples of mothball in a Sentence

Verb Many navy ships were mothballed after the war.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Before taking out a camper trailer or RV, be sure to remove any rat poison, mothballs or antifreeze in the toilets. oregonlive, "Camping with your dog this Labor Day weekend? Bring a pet first-aid kit, says the ASPCA," 31 Aug. 2019 Fewer than twenty are sitting in mothballs in Bremerton, Pearl Harbor, and Philadelphia, awaiting their ultimate fate. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy Won’t Bring Back Mothballed Ships to Boost the Fleet," 21 Feb. 2019 Myth: Lime, sulfur, mothballs and commercial snake repellents will keep snakes away. Shelia Poole, ajc, "7 most common myths about snakes," 5 June 2018 In one message, Ms. Garver asked SpaceX’s president to update her about how interested SpaceX was in using the pad, then in mothballs. Andy Pasztor, WSJ, "Elon Musk’s Right-Hand Woman Is Steadying Force at SpaceX," 30 Sep. 2018 Unfortunately, the mere prospect of the search is enough to evoke the smell of mothballs. Zoe Settle, ELLE Decor, "Top Sources for Vintage Textiles," 15 May 2011 Applied Iguana Rid and placed mothballs and sprinkled a concoction of garlic, lemon juice and chili powder (only worked temporarily). Linda Robertson, miamiherald, "South Florida is suffering from an iguana infestation. A solution? Think barbecue.," 11 July 2018 Heck, Jack Nicholson might even come out of mothballs at 81. Greg Cote, miamiherald, "LeBron James has only 1 choice if he wants to meet the challenge of his legacy head-on," 30 June 2018 One is a bond that resembles a mothball, called aromatic carbon, while the other resembles grease and is called aliphatic. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Milky Way Is Full of Potentially Toxic "Space Grease"," 28 June 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Several of them have been mothballed, including the former Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C., which needs up to $15 million in repairs. J.k. Dineen,, "U.S. government sues to evict couple from $15 million Presidio Heights mansion," 17 July 2019 The cuts were related to General Motors’ decision to mothball the company’s Lordstown auto plant, Worden said. Andrew J. Tobias,, "Mike Pence scheduled for second visit to Ohio next week," 25 July 2019 But sustained in-state resistance led to delays in the site’s development, and the Obama administration mothballed the project in 2009. National Geographic, "All spent nuclear fuel in the U.S. will soon end up in one place," 30 July 2019 The oil refinery owned by PBF Energy Inc. near this Delaware Bay town was mothballed nearly a decade ago. Timothy Puko, WSJ, "Refiners Poised for Boost From Clean-Fuel Rules," 26 May 2019 Indeed, since the shuttle was mothballed, U.S. astronauts have flown into space aboard Russian Soyuz capsules for about $81 million per ride. Sue Mcmillin, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: 50 years after the moon landing is no time to relaunch a go-it-alone space race," 19 July 2019 The government plans to hold onto the property, but mothball it. J.k. Dineen,, "U.S. government sues to evict couple from $15 million Presidio Heights mansion," 17 July 2019 So airlines began buying the smaller planes and mothballing their bigger ones. Robert Wall, WSJ, "The Last 747: Airlines Dump the Jumbo Jet, Transforming International Travel," 29 Dec. 2018 That habit has been mothballed for a few years, but this month the theater seats have been yanked out of the Milton stage on Studio’s second floor, replaced by cabaret tables and chairs. Washington Post, "17 things to do in the D.C. area this weekend," 20 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mothball.' 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 mothball


1892, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for mothball

Time Traveler for mothball

The first known use of mothball was in 1892

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How to pronounce mothball (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mothball

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small ball that contains a strong-smelling chemical and that is used to keep moths away from stored clothing
used in phrases like in/into mothballs and out of mothballs to describe something that is stored without being used for a long time sometimes used to describe a person (such as a performer) who has not been seen for a long time



English Language Learners Definition of mothball (Entry 2 of 2)

: to stop using (something) while keeping it to be possibly used in the future

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Comments on mothball

What made you want to look up mothball? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to engage in dissolute behavior

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