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.

1775–85; taken as singular of Neo-Latin termites, plural of termes white ant, Latin tarmes wood-eating worm

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World English Dictionary
termite (ˈtɜːmaɪt)
Also called: white ant 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
[C18: from New Latin termitēs white ants, pl of termes, from Latin: a woodworm; related to Greek tetrainein to bore through]

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Word Origin & History

1849, back-formation from plural form termites (1781), from Mod.L. termites (three syllables), pl. of termes (gen. termitis), a special use of L.L. termes "woodworm, white ant," altered (by influence of L. terere "to rub, wear, erode") from earlier L. tarmes. Their nest is a terminarium (1863).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
termite   (tûr'mīt')  Pronunciation Key 
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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Example sentences
The lion approached the herd of gazelles slowly while hidden by a large termite mound.
If the termite was this dim it would be extinct by now.
The termite's stomach, of all things, has become the focus of large-scale scientific investigations.
When the rains came, water trickled through the termite holes into the ground.
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