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[nat] /næt/
any of certain small flies, especially the biting gnats or punkies of the family Ceratopogonidae, the midges of the family Chironomidae, and the black flies of the family Simuliidae.
British. mosquito.
strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, to fuss about trifles while ignoring more serious matters.
Origin of gnat
before 900; Middle English; Old English gnæt(t); cognate with German (dial.) Gnatze
Related forms
gnatlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for gnats
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was also the prettiest little chamber in the world, and his servant was beside him with a fan to keep away the flies and gnats.

    The Fairy Book Dinah Maria Mulock (AKA Miss Mulock)
  • They had hunting falcons and dogs about as large as gnats and fleas.

  • We traveled by night and hid in the brush by day, where millions of gnats and mosquitoes literally devoured me!

    Carmen Ariza Charles Francis Stocking
  • The evening was then advancing, and the gnats from the trees and shrubs plagued the horses.

  • Perhaps the flies and gnats which they feed upon cannot live in the air above the roofs.

    Roof and Meadow Dallas Lore Sharp
  • The heat was excessive, and Gordon and his staff were pestered by crowds of gnats.

    From Pole to Pole Sven Anders Hedin
  • The presence of a rat or mouse will greatly excite them, and even the gnats or fleas annoy them exceedingly.

    Sawdust & Spangles W. C. Coup
  • See the very bees and gnats, how they dance and bask in the sunbeams!

    True Words for Brave Men Charles Kingsley
British Dictionary definitions for gnats


any of various small fragile biting dipterous insects of the suborder Nematocera, esp Culex pipiens (common gnat), which abounds near stagnant water
Derived Forms
gnatlike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English gnætt; related to Middle High German gnaz scurf, German dialect Gnitze gnat
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 gnats



Old English gnætt "gnat, midge, mosquito," earlier gneat, used of various small, flying insects, from Proto-Germanic *gnattaz (cf. Low German gnatte, German Gnitze); perhaps literally "biting insect" and related to gnaw.

The gnatte is a litil fflye, and hatte culex..he soukeþ blood and haþ in his mouþ a pipe, as hit were a pricke..And is a-countid a-mong volatiles..and greueþ slepinge men wiþ noyse & wiþ bytinge and wakeþ hem of here reste. [John of Trevisa, transl. of Bartholomew de Glanville's "De proprietatibus rerum," 1398]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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gnats in Medicine

gnat (nāt)
Any of various small, biting, two-winged flies, such as a biting midge or black fly.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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gnats in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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gnats in the Bible

only in Matt. 23:24, a small two-winged stinging fly of the genus Culex, which includes mosquitoes. Our Lord alludes here to the gnat in a proverbial expression probably in common use, "who strain out the gnat;" the words in the Authorized Version, "strain at a gnat," being a mere typographical error, which has been corrected in the Revised Version. The custom of filtering wine for this purpose was common among the Jews. It was founded on Lev. 11:23. It is supposed that the "lice," Ex. 8:16 (marg. R.V., "sand-flies"), were a species of gnat.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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