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[in-sekt] /ˈɪn sɛkt/
any animal of the class Insecta, comprising small, air-breathing arthropods having the body divided into three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and having three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings.
any small arthropod, such as a spider, tick, or centipede, having a superficial, general similarity to the insects.
Compare arachnid.
a contemptible or unimportant person.
of, pertaining to, like, or used for or against insects:
an insect bite; insect powder.
1595-1605; < Latin insectum, noun use of neuter of insectus past participle of insecāre to incise, cut (cf. segment); translation of Greek éntomon insect, literally, notched or incised one; see entomo-
Related forms
[in-sek-tahy-vuh l] /ˌɪn sɛkˈtaɪ vəl/ (Show IPA),
noninsect, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for insects
  • Imagine you are a naturalist with a liking for insects.
  • My one concern is whether the crevices might also provide winter hideaways for less-than-desirable insects.
  • Scale insects and mites are controlled by dormant oil spray.
  • Unfortunately, they were feeding insects a little too well.
  • Check the leaves and stems to be sure no insects are present.
  • And there was now also an increased variety of insects.
  • So it is with the plants and insects on small and uniform islets: also in small ponds of fresh water.
  • We were not bothered by insects, although mosquitoes swarmed in every belt of timber.
  • Some live exclusively on batrachians, others only on lizards, a few only on insects.
  • But dictionaries make clear that vermin can include insects.
British Dictionary definitions for insects


any small air-breathing arthropod of the class Insecta, having a body divided into head, thorax, and abdomen, three pairs of legs, and (in most species) two pairs of wings. Insects comprise about five sixths of all known animal species, with a total of over one million named species related adjective entomic
(loosely) any similar invertebrate, such as a spider, tick, or centipede
a contemptible, loathsome, or insignificant person
Derived Forms
insectean, insectan, insectile, adjective
insect-like, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Latin insectum (animal that has been) cut into, insect, from insecāre, from in-² + secāre to cut; translation of Greek entomon insect
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 insects



c.1600, from Latin (animal) insectum "(animal) with a notched or divided body," literally "cut into," from neuter past participle of insectare "to cut into, to cut up," from in- "into" (see in- (2)) + secare "to cut" (see section (n.)). Pliny's loan-translation of Greek entomon "insect" (see entomology), which was Aristotle's term for this class of life, in reference to their "notched" bodies.

First in English in 1601 in Holland's translation of Pliny. Translations of Aristotle's term also form the usual word for "insect" in Welsh (trychfil, from trychu "cut" + mil "animal"), Serbo-Croatian (zareznik, from rezati "cut"), Russian (nasekomoe, from sekat "cut"), etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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insects in Medicine

insect in·sect (ĭn'sěkt')

  1. Any of numerous usually small arthropod animals of the class Insecta, having an adult stage characterized by three pairs of legs and a body segmented into head, thorax, and abdomen and usually having two pairs of wings.

  2. Any of various similar arthropod animals, such as spiders, centipedes, or ticks.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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insects in Science
Any of very numerous, mostly small arthropods of the class Insecta, having six segmented legs in the adult stage and a body divided into three parts (the head, thorax, and abdomen). The head has a pair of antennae and the thorax usually has one or two pairs of wings. Most insects undergo substantial change in form during development from the young to the adult stage. More than 800,000 species are known, most of them beetles. Other insects include flies, bees, ants, grasshoppers, butterflies, cockroaches, aphids, and silverfish. See Notes at biomass, bug, entomology.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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