Word of the Day

insect

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Definition

a small animal that has six legs and often has wings

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.



Origin and usage

The noun insect comes from the Latin ‘insectum’ meaning ‘segmented’, because most adult insects have bodies with distinct sections. It has been used in English since the 17th century.

Examples

This is National Insect Week, whose purpose is to encourage everyone to learn more about and appreciate insects. Organized every two years by the Royal Entomological Society, the event encourages the public to become amateur entomologists. People can participate in various ways, including photographing and recording the insects they see and using the available resources to find out more about them. As the definition above goes on to say, ‘there are many different types of insects, such as bees, flies, and beetles’ and they arouse very different feelings in people. While most can appreciate the beauty of butterflies or value bees for their essential role in the ecosystem, not everyone is enthralled by beetles or fascinated by centipedes. Indeed, some of the terms we use to refer to insects, such as bug, creepy-crawly and pest, show distaste and even disgust. National Insect Week aims to overcome those feelings by getting people to look closely at what they call the ‘little things that run the world’.

Quotations

We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.
(Charles Darwin)

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
(Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis)

Related words

bug, creep-crawly, pest

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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