: any of numerous social or solitary winged hymenopterous insects (especially families Sphecidae and Vespidae) that usually have a slender smooth body with the abdomen attached by a narrow stalk, well-developed wings, biting mouthparts, and in the females and workers an often formidable sting, and that are largely carnivorous and often provision their nests with insects or spiders killed or paralyzed by stinging for their larvae to feed on compare bee
: any of various hymenopterous insects (such as a chalcid or ichneumon wasp) other than wasps with larvae that are parasitic on other arthropods
Most of the members of the club are wealthy WASPs.
The college had been known as a bastion of WASP privilege.
Recent Examples on the Web
Orbiting, stalling, inverting The study team compiled hundreds of slow-motion videos capturing the behaviors of butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, dragonflies and damselflies, and found that the critters were not attracted to faraway lights.—Taylor Nicioli, CNN, 7 Feb. 2024 In the game, one player is the ant and wasp, the other player is the beetle larva and adult.—Lesley Evans Ogden, Smithsonian Magazine, 31 Jan. 2024 If the wood wasn’t debarked, trees with loose bark layers or split wood that has dried enough to loosen its bark may harbor an array of creatures, such as wood roaches, earwigs, and possibly even overwintering yellowjacket wasp queens.—Miri Talabac, Baltimore Sun, 11 Jan. 2024 Cuckoo wasps use this water and saliva to soften the clay surrounding a mason bee’s burrow and dig inside.—Carlyn Kranking, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Jan. 2024 There will be dancing, singing, and heartbreaking indie poetry about all the regular things — death, desire, coming of age — and about UFOs, killer wasps, and zombies, too.—Sara Holdren, Vulture, 4 Jan. 2024 Soon audiences around the world also heard a new universe — a wasp’s nest of shivering strings, an eerily sensual siren song — that announced a major arrival in film scoring.—Tim Greiving, Los Angeles Times, 12 Dec. 2023 The traps captured hundreds of insects, many of which were new species, referred to as vampire wasps.—Gabe Allen, Discover Magazine, 30 Oct. 2023 The critters can curl into a ball tight enough to fend off attacks from wasps.—Corey Buhay, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Oct. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wasp.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English waspe, from Old English wæps, wæsp; akin to Old High German wafsa wasp, Latin vespa wasp
white Anglo-Saxon Protestant
First Known Use
before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1
: any of numerous winged insects related to the bees and ants that have a slender body with the abdomen attached by a narrow stalk and that in females and workers are usually capable of giving a very painful sting
2 of 2noun
variants or Wasp
: an American of northern European and Protestant background
: any of numerous social or solitary winged insects (especially families Sphecidae and Vespidae) of the order Hymenoptera that usually have a slender smooth body with the abdomen attached by a narrow stalk, well-developed wings, biting mouthparts, and in the females and workers an often formidable sting