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

Examples of spiracle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The tobacco hornworm, for example, not only tolerates the toxicity of nicotine but exploits the plant’s weapon in the interest of its own survival: After feeding on tobacco leaves, the hornworm releases enough nicotine through its spiracles to ward off the spiders that prey on it. Barbara Spindel, WSJ, 22 Dec. 2023 With macrophotography that shows every hair (a surprising amount of it), every spiracle (the pores in their exoskeletons through which ants breathe) and every facet of their compound eyes, the images replace our accustomed looking-down-from-a-skyscraper view with intimate, face-to-face portraits. New York Times, 5 Apr. 2021 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

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 20 Jul. 2024.

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

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