Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of numerous 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 one or two pairs of wings. Insects include the flies, crickets, mosquitoes, beetles, butterflies, and bees.
  • noun Any of various other small, chiefly arthropod animals, such as spiders, centipedes, or ticks, usually having many legs. Not in scientific use.
  • noun An insignificant or contemptible person.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To seek or catch insects, as a bird does.
  • noun A small, usually winged and many-legged, invertebrate creature whose body appears to consist of several segments: a term used in popular speech without exactitude, being applied not only to flies, fleas, dragon-flies, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, beetles, bugs, lice, and other familiar creatures properly called insects, but also, improperly, to other small creatures whose structure and relations are not popularly understood, as the so-called coral insect, which is an actinozoan.
  • noun In zoology, any member of the class or other division of animals called Insecta; an arthropod; a condylopod; an articulated animal with articulated legs, especially one with six such legs; a hexapod. See Insecta and Hexapoda, 1.
  • Of, pertaining to, or of the nature of an insect or insects: as, insect transformations; insect architecture.
  • Like an insect in any respect; small; mean; contemptible.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) One of the Insecta; esp., one of the Hexapoda. See insecta.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any air-breathing arthropod, as a spider or scorpion.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any small crustacean. In a wider sense, the word is often loosely applied to various small invertebrates.
  • noun Fig.: Any small, trivial, or contemptible person or thing.
  • noun a powder used for the extermination of insects; esp., the powdered flowers of certain species of Pyrethrum, a genus now merged in Chrysanthemum. Called also Persian powder.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to an insect or insects.
  • adjective Like an insect; small; mean; ephemeral.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An arthropod in the class Insecta, characterized by six legs, up to four wings, and a chitinous exoskeleton.
  • noun colloquial Any small arthropod similar to an insect including spiders, centipedes, millipedes, etc
  • noun A contemptible or powerless person.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun small air-breathing arthropod
  • noun a person who has a nasty or unethical character undeserving of respect

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin īnsectum, from neuter past participle of īnsecāre, to cut up (translation of Greek entomon, segmented, cut up, insect) : in-, in; see in– + secāre, to cut; see sek- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin insectum ("with a notched or divided body, cut up"), from perfect passive partciple of insecō ("I cut up"), from in- + secō ("I cut"), from the notion that the insect's body is "cut into" three sections. Calque of Ancient Greek ἔντομον ("insect"), from ἔντομος ("cut into pieces").

Examples

  • The insect is exposed to the odour in controlled pulses and simultaneously rewarded with sugar syrup.

    Bomb-Sniffing Bees

  • | "An insect from the moon" — Ernst Jünger's Glass Bees »

    My Dog Tulip gets a new cover

  • The insect is irresistibly drawn to the sweet-smelling nectar and enters the mouth.

    CONSUMING • by Krystyna Smallman

  • And pesticides are harmful to birds, causing effects ranging from a reduction in insect food to thinning eggshells.

    » Why Organic? Strocel.com

  • Here's the source report: Deet inhibits cholinesterase: Evidence for inhibition of cholinesterases in insect and mammalian nervous systems by the insect repellent deet (BioMed Central)

    Boing Boing

  • Although, as I said before, I know only a few insects, I at once had the impression of something undreamed-of, something extremely bizarre — the impression, let us say, of an insect from the moon.

    Commonplace

  • In the case of pesticide resistance because the breathing skin of the insect is dysfunctional, is the creature really "more fit"?

    The Weasel Thread

  • If you are stung on the neck or throat area, inside your mouth or the gastrointestinal tract (this commonly occurs when the insect is swallowed along with a beverage), there is a moderate risk for a complication.

    Sting Things

  • Although, as I said before, I know only a few insects, I at once had the impression of something undreamed-of, something extremely bizarre — the impression, let us say, of an insect from the moon.

    A Different Stripe:

  • Anya McKenzie, aged seven, bends forward to scrutinise a small brown object over which an insect is scurrying.

    Sustainable schools: you can learn a lot in a retirement home for poultry

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