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flea

[flee] /fli/
noun
1.
any of numerous small, wingless bloodsucking insects of the order Siphonaptera, parasitic upon mammals and birds and noted for their ability to leap.
2.
either of two common fleas of the genus Ctenocephalides, the very small, black C. felis (cat flea) or the similar but larger C. canis (dog flea) both of which infest cats, dogs, and occasionally humans.
3.
any of various small beetles and crustaceans that leap like a flea or swim in a jumpy manner, as the water flea and beach flea.
Idioms
4.
flea in one's ear,
  1. a disconcerting rebuke or rebuff:
    The next time he shows his face around here he'll get a flea in his ear.
  2. a broad hint.
Origin
900
before 900; Middle English fle, Old English flēah, flēa; cognate with German Floh; akin to flee
Can be confused
flea, flee.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for flea
  • To the right, a wall of books and filing cabinets rises up behind a haphazard collection of flea-market chairs.
  • We met in an empty parking lot, next to a flea market.
  • Many bricks-and-mortar bookshops still make a good living, as do flea markets.
  • The stolen bikes were then sold at a local flea market.
  • Not only that, which was bad enough, but my dog also had some kind of allergic reaction to the flea bites.
  • In flea time it seemed hardly possible that a dog of his size could sustain his population.
  • Cats actually attract rodents to your home, with their whole slew of flea-borne and other diseases.
  • Social grooming doesn't prevent mosquito bites, and it can only lessen but not eliminate flea bites.
  • Rather, a large portion of them are switched on or off with changes in the flea's environment.
  • flea killers can be used, but a great idea is the use of a small vacuum cleaner to tidy up animal's coats.
British Dictionary definitions for flea

flea

/fliː/
noun
1.
any small wingless parasitic blood-sucking insect of the order Siphonaptera, living on the skin of mammals and birds and noted for its power of leaping
2.
any of various invertebrates that resemble fleas, such as the water flea and flea beetle
3.
(informal) flea in one's ear, a sharp rebuke
Word Origin
Old English flēah; related to Old Norse flō, Old High German flōh
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for flea
n.

Old English flea, from Proto-Germanic *flauhaz (cf. Old Norse flo, Middle Dutch vlo, German Floh), perhaps related to Old English fleon "to flee," with a notion of "the jumping parasite," or perhaps from PIE *plou- "flea" (cf. Latin pulex, Greek psylla; see puce).

Flea-bag "bed" is from 1839; flea circus is from 1886; flea collar is from 1953.

"A man named 'Mueller' put on the first trained-flea circus in America at the old Stone and Austin museum in Boston nearly forty years ago. Another German named 'Auvershleg' had the first traveling flea circus in this country thirty years ago. In addition to fairs and museums, I get as high as $25 for a private exhibition." ["Professor" William Heckler, quoted in "Popular Mechanics," February 1928. Printed at the top of his programs were "Every action is visible to the naked eye" and "No danger of desertion."]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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flea in Medicine

flea (flē)
n.
Any of various small, wingless, bloodsucking insects of the order Siphonaptera that have legs adapted for jumping and are parasitic in the hair and feathers of warm-blooded animals.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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flea in the Bible

David at the cave of Adullam thus addressed his persecutor Saul (1 Sam. 24:14): "After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea?" He thus speaks of himself as the poor, contemptible object of the monarch's pursuit, a "worthy object truly for an expedition of the king of Israel with his picked troops!" This insect is in Eastern language the popular emblem of insignificance. In 1 Sam. 26:20 the LXX. read "come out to seek my life" instead of "to seek a flea."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with flea
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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