spi·​ra·​cle ˈspir-i-kəl How to pronounce spiracle (audio)
: a breathing hole : vent
: a breathing orifice: such as
: an external tracheal aperture of a terrestrial arthropod that in an insect is usually one of a series of small apertures located along each side of the thorax and abdomen see insect illustration
spiracular adjective

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web From each spiracle, the blue tubes, called trachea, carry oxygen into the chrysalis. Lisa Raffensperger, Discover Magazine, 15 May 2013 Some modern-day fishes that breathe air have similarly large spiracles. John A. Long, Scientific American, 20 May 2020 The skull of Elpistostege contains a clue: at the back of the head is a pair of large holes called spiracles. John A. Long, Scientific American, 20 May 2020 Sturgeon have holes in their sides called spiracles, which help them breathe along with their gills. National Geographic, 25 Feb. 2020 Also, an up-close look reveals intake vents (spiracles) behind the eyes for circulating water through the gills and out on the saw’s underside for exhaling. David A. Brown, Field & Stream, 13 Dec. 2019 The photographs showed children touching the animal, unintentionally covering the spiracle. Robert Newhouse, Teen Vogue, 17 Aug. 2017 When disturbed, say by a predator, these North American insects compress their bodies and squeeze air out of holes in the sides of their bodies, called spiracles. National Geographic, 26 Apr. 2017 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Latin spiraculum, from spirare to breathe

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of spiracle was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near spiracle

Cite this Entry

“Spiracle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spiracle. Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


spi·​ra·​cle ˈspir-i-kəl How to pronounce spiracle (audio)
: any of the openings in the body of an arthropod and especially of an insect through which air enters a trachea

More from Merriam-Webster on spiracle

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Love It or Hate It

  • heart-fire
  • When asked about her blind date, Carol spoke for hours with vitriol.
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?