Definition of insect in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈinˌsekt/


Image of insect
1A small arthropod animal that has six legs and generally one or two pairs of wings.
Example sentences
  • Voices that would seem possible only from the throat of a bird in fact arise from the wings of an insect.
  • It was an unusual insect, with coloured wings that faded from red to yellow.
  • This insect is among the most damaging arthropod pests of pears in North America and Europe.
1.1 informal Any small invertebrate animal, especially one with several pairs of legs.
Example sentences
  • This group includes all the insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, also spiders and centipedes.
  • For a web to be effective, it needs to be built so that an insect doesn't snap the web or bounce out of it.

Insects are usually placed in the class Insecta (see also Hexapoda). The body of a typical adult insect is divided into head, thorax (bearing the legs and wings), and abdomen. The class includes many familiar forms, such as flies, bees, wasps, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, and cockroaches. Insects are the most numerous animals in both numbers of individuals and of different kinds, with more than a million species in all habitats except the sea, and they are of enormous economic importance as pests and carriers of disease, and also as pollinators.


Early 17th century (originally denoting any small cold-blooded creature with a segmented body): from Latin (animal) insectum 'segmented (animal)' (translating Greek zōion entomon), from insecare 'cut up or into', from in- 'into' + secare 'to cut'.

  • Insects have bodies that are divided into segments, and segments are the basic idea behind the word. Insect was formed in the 17th century from Latin animal insectum ‘segmented animal’, and originally referred to any small cold-blooded creature with a segmented body, for example, a spider, not just what we would call insects. The root word is secare ‘to cut’, which gave us dissect (late 16th century), section (Late Middle English), and segment (late 16th century).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·sect

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