Definition of insect in English:



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

    • ‘In winter it feeds on the larvae of flying insects, and starts breeding very early in the season.’
    • ‘The whole idea behind fly fishing is to mimic the different insects and aquatic animals fish feed on.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Being dinner for a swarm of insects is nobody's idea of a good time.’
    • ‘Few other studies have correlated the influence of the full moon with behaviour of animals or insects.’
    • ‘Useful insects such as bees or natural parasites and predators of pests may be affected by pesticide residues.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If everyone keeps their promise this will also make a real difference to all sorts of wildlife from insects to birds.’
    • ‘Plants can use indirect defence mechanisms to protect themselves against herbivorous insects.’
    • ‘The flightless birds and insects of such islands had clearly lost a highly complex function.’
    • ‘For Buddhists, there is no difference between insects and larger animals.’
    • ‘Each tree is a city to nature inhabited by mosses, birds, insects and small animals.’
    • ‘The Taverham visitor spent much time hunting for insects and larvae among fallen leaves in scrubby woodland.’
    • ‘This insect is among the most damaging arthropod pests of pears in North America and Europe.’
    • ‘The pods release a gas that kills insects and animals that may be living in cargo.’
    • ‘Mammals, birds, insects and plants have been monitored in the strips for five years.’
    • ‘They have sections for amphibians, insects, mammals, fish, reptiles and more.’
    • ‘Surviving juveniles disperse to the riffles and runs of the river to live on insect larvae and small crustaceans.’
    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.