Definition of insect in English:



  • 1A small arthropod animal that has six legs and generally one or two pairs of wings.

    • ‘Voices that would seem possible only from the throat of a bird in fact arise from the wings of an insect.’
    • ‘Being dinner for a swarm of insects is nobody's idea of a good time.’
    • ‘Mammals, birds, insects and plants have been monitored in the strips for five years.’
    • ‘Each tree is a city to nature inhabited by mosses, birds, insects and small animals.’
    • ‘Useful insects such as bees or natural parasites and predators of pests may be affected by pesticide residues.’
    • ‘In winter it feeds on the larvae of flying insects, and starts breeding very early in the season.’
    • ‘Plants can use indirect defence mechanisms to protect themselves against herbivorous insects.’
    • ‘The Taverham visitor spent much time hunting for insects and larvae among fallen leaves in scrubby woodland.’
    • ‘They have sections for amphibians, insects, mammals, fish, reptiles and more.’
    • ‘This insect is among the most damaging arthropod pests of pears in North America and Europe.’
    • ‘Carnivorous animals will eat live insects and some will eat mice and rats.’
    • ‘In the late afternoon there will be time for a nature walk to spot desert animals, birds and insects.’
    • ‘The flightless birds and insects of such islands had clearly lost a highly complex function.’
    • ‘If everyone keeps their promise this will also make a real difference to all sorts of wildlife from insects to birds.’
    • ‘It was an unusual insect, with coloured wings that faded from red to yellow.’
    • ‘The whole idea behind fly fishing is to mimic the different insects and aquatic animals fish feed on.’
    • ‘Few other studies have correlated the influence of the full moon with behaviour of animals or insects.’
    • ‘Surviving juveniles disperse to the riffles and runs of the river to live on insect larvae and small crustaceans.’
    • ‘For Buddhists, there is no difference between insects and larger animals.’
    • ‘The pods release a gas that kills insects and animals that may be living in cargo.’
    1. 1.1informal Any small invertebrate animal, especially one with several pairs of legs.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This group includes all the insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, also spiders and centipedes.’


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’.