Definition of moth in US English:



  • 1A chiefly nocturnal insect related to the butterflies. It lacks the clubbed antennae of butterflies and typically has a stout body, drab coloration, and wings that fold flat when resting.

    Most superfamilies of the order Lepidoptera. Formerly placed in a grouping known as the Heterocera

    • ‘Not until spring was the box opened again, when great was my amazement to find a big moth flapping its wings!’
    • ‘Does a moth flapping its wings in Timbuktu have any effect on a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean?’
    • ‘She brought with her a collection of bees, butterflies, flies, moths, and others.’
    • ‘The adult insect is a moth with silvery-white forewings and brown stripes and black markings on each wing tip.’
    • ‘More than half of Britain's 2,500 species of butterflies and moths are found here.’
    • ‘With the exception of a few moths, all adult Lepidoptera have two pairs of wings.’
    • ‘A variety of insects, including some beetles and moths, mimic bees and wasps.’
    • ‘This is a bacterium that is only harmful to Lepidoptera - butterflies and moths.’
    • ‘There's the butterfly house, a riot of colourful plants and animals with more than 60 species of butterflies and moths.’
    • ‘But it turns out that the moths do not rest on tree trunks during the day.’
    • ‘This is despite it being no more than six feet wide in places and a haven for birds, mammals, butterflies, moths and wild flowers.’
    • ‘It won't discriminate between pest caterpillars and those of desirable moths and butterflies.’
    • ‘They will turn into chrysalises and, after a few weeks, into butterflies or moths.’
    • ‘The network of mature hedges, the areas of long grass and the ponds and streams means there are plenty of insects, especially moths, for the bats to feed on.’
    • ‘Butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and other pollinators will come for the banquet too.’
    • ‘Bats and nocturnal moths take to the wing, while butterflies settle and flowers begin to close their petals.’
    • ‘These in turn are attracted by night-scented flowers which attract moths and night-flying insects.’
    • ‘Butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, cardinals, bluejays and more visited our gardens.’
    • ‘I look at the sodium vapour lamps and the thousands of insects and moths inside them.’
    • ‘These bats are strictly insectivorous and may be further limited in diet to moths and butterflies.’
    1. 1.1 A clothes moth.
      ‘I store my sweaters in plastic bags to protect them from moths’
      • ‘Damage from moths, mildew or vermin is also not covered, so if the rats eat your clothes, tough luck Charlie.’
      • ‘These are the herbs that were used in medieval times to deter moths and fleas from clothing and people.’


  • like a moth to the flame

    • With an irresistible attraction for someone or something.

      ‘wealthy amateurs who have been attracted like moths to the glittering flames of showbiz’
      • ‘She felt like a moth to the flame, knowing that the more time she spent with him, the more battered her world would become.’
      • ‘But (and here is the contradiction) simply by hating it, I am drawn to it like a moth to the flame.’
      • ‘She could hear the ragged breathing of her prey, drawing her to him like a moth to the flame.’
      • ‘He argued that as the British and Irish governments were transfixed by the peace process like a moth to the flame, the Sinn Fein leadership, playing by its own rules, benefited from the permanent instability.’


Old English moththe, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch mot and German Motte.