os·​me·​te·​ri·​um ˌäz-mə-ˈtir-ē-əm How to pronounce osmeterium (audio)
plural osmeteria ˌäz-mə-ˈtir-ē-ə How to pronounce osmeterium (audio)
: a protrusible glandular process of swallowtail larvae that emits a disagreeable odor for defensive purposes

Word History


alteration of earlier osmaterium, probably from Greek osma-, stem of osmáomai, osmâsthai "to smell" (derivative of osmḗ "smell, odor") + -tērion, suffix of containers and locations (derivative of -tēr, agent suffix) — more at osmium

Note: Term introduced in William Kirby and William Spence's Introduction to Entomology, vol. 2 (London, 1817), p. 244: "I shall next beg your attention to those insects that emit their smell from particular organs. Of these, some are furnished with a kind of scent-vessels, which I shall call osmateria…."

First Known Use

1817, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of osmeterium was in 1817

Dictionary Entries Near osmeterium

Cite this Entry

“Osmeterium.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/osmeterium. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

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