saw·​fly ˈsȯ-ˌflī How to pronounce sawfly (audio)
: any of numerous hymenopterous insects (superfamily Tenthredinoidea and especially family Tenthredinidae) with the female usually having a sawlike ovipositor and with the larva resembling a plant-feeding caterpillar

Examples of sawfly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Lisa Hodgkin, who studied sawflies for her doctorate at the University of Melbourne in Australia and is now a social work researcher at Monash University, says the groups of 30 or 40 individuals sometimes scatter while feeding on a tree. Victoria Sayo Turner, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Sep. 2023 The elm zigzag sawfly was spotted by researchers infesting elm trees in both Franklin and Delaware counties, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Zach Mentz, cleveland, 6 Sep. 2023 Refer to our sawflies page for more information and images of other common sawfly larvae in gardens. Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 17 Aug. 2023 There are no reports of the elm zigzag sawfly having caused the death of any elm trees, and species management options remain an area of study, per ODNR. Zach Mentz, cleveland, 6 Sep. 2023 This is an important distinction because not all of the low-risk insecticides used on caterpillars work on sawflies. Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 17 Aug. 2023 Other plant families have their own leaf miners with the host species and characteristic form of the larva’s leaf squiggles helping to identify the insect species; this includes the larvae of some sawflies and wasps. Rita Perwich, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Aug. 2023 The primary insect responsible for chewing rose leaves this time of year is a sawfly – in particular, one of a few species of roseslug sawfly. Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 8 June 2023 The larvae of sawflies look very similar to caterpillars, though there are subtle differences. Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 8 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sawfly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1773, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sawfly was in 1773

Dictionary Entries Near sawfly

Cite this Entry

“Sawfly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


saw·​fly -ˌflī How to pronounce sawfly (audio)
: any of numerous insects related to the wasps and bees in which the female has a serrated organ used to cut holes in plants where she lays eggs

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