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[tur-mahyt] /ˈtɜr maɪt/
any of numerous pale-colored, soft-bodied, chiefly tropical social insects, of the order Isoptera, that feed on wood, some being highly destructive to buildings, furniture, etc.
Also called white ant.
Origin of termite
1775-85; taken as singular of New Latin termites, plural of termes white ant, Latin tarmes wood-eating worm Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for termite
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The termite team whirled around; the ruler stared, as though in sudden realization of danger.

  • The different species of termite are not equally industrious.

    The Industries of Animals Frdric Houssay
  • The only social insects were small twigfuls of ant and termite colonies, with from five to fifteen members.

    Jungle Peace William Beebe
  • If you knew what you were talking about, you wouldn't dismiss the termite so casually!

  • All the termites in the chamber were converging slowly toward the spot where the termite had given the rasping alarm.

  • No doubt, to his own mind, he had placed them near one of the termite highways.

  • The termite neuters are subdivided into two classes, soldiers and workers, both wingless and blind.

  • This type of termite was armored more poorly than the others.

British Dictionary definitions for termite


any whitish ant-like social insect of the order Isoptera, of warm and tropical regions. Some species feed on wood, causing damage to furniture, buildings, trees, etc Also called white ant
Derived Forms
termitic (tɜːˈmɪtɪk) adjective
Word Origin
C18: from New Latin termitēs white ants, pl of termes, from Latin: a woodworm; related to Greek tetrainein to bore through
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 termite

1849, back-formation from plural form termites (1781), from Modern Latin termites (three syllables), plural of termes (genitive termitis), a special use of Late Latin termes "woodworm, white ant," altered (by influence of Latin terere "to rub, wear, erode") from earlier Latin tarmes. Their nest is a terminarium (1863).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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termite in Science
Any of various pale-colored insects of the order Isoptera that live in large colonies and feed on wood. Termites resemble ants in their appearance, manner of living, and social organization, but are not closely related. Termites can be very destructive to wooden buildings and structures. Also called isopteran.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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