[mawth-bawl, moth-]
a small ball of naphthalene or sometimes of camphor for placing in closets or other storage areas to repel moths from clothing, blankets, etc.
verb (used with object)
to put into storage or reserve; inactivate.
inactive; unused; stored away: a mothball fleet.
in mothballs,
in disuse or in storage, especially with reference to standby equipment.
(of ideas) dismissed as unworthy of further deliberation.

1905–10; moth + ball1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
mothball (ˈmɒθˌbɔːl)
1.  Also called: camphor ball a small ball of camphor or naphthalene used to repel clothes moths in stored clothing, blankets, etc
2.  put in mothballs to postpone work on (a project, activity, etc)
3.  to prepare (a ship, aircraft, etc) for a long period of storage by sealing all openings with plastic to prevent corrosion
4.  to take (a factory, plant, etc) out of operation but maintain it so that it can be used in the future
5.  to postpone work on (a project, activity, etc)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1906, naphthalene ball stored among fabrics to keep off moths, from moth + ball. The verb in the figurative sense is first recorded 1949, in ref. to retiring of U.S. warships after World War II.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Simply tape a mothball to a piece of wood or cardboard large enough to cover the open top of your funnel.
Mothballs may be pinned in a box by attaching the mothball to the head of an ordinary pin.
The building was placed in mothball status and is ready for reuse should the need arise.
The decision to mothball school libraries and severely cut back libraries throughout the country is disturbing.
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