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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ A single bug may catch ten or more termites in succession in this way.
▪ Insects appeared about half a billion years ago, but stayed solitary until termites turned up three hundred million years later.
▪ On the contrary, they and indeed most other termites certainly have.
▪ One animal, however, has acquired the ability to fish termites out of their nests very much more swiftly.
▪ Other hive worlds are poisoned wildernesses punctuated by rearing plasteel termite mounds, vertical cities that punch through the clouds.
▪ The termite inspector can point out some problem areas.
▪ This is not to say that these termites have no perception of the earth's magnetic field.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Termite \Ter"mite\, n.; pl. Termites. [F. See Termes.] (Zo["o]l.) Any one of numerous species of pseudoneoropterous insects belonging to Termes and allied genera; -- called also white ant. See Illust. of White ant.

Note: They are very abundant in tropical countries, and are noted for their destructive habits, their large nests, their remarkable social instincts, and their division of labor among the polymorphic individuals of several kinds. Besides the males and females, each nest has ordinary workers, and large-headed individuals called soldiers.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

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). Earlier in English known as wood ant or white ant.


n. A white-bodied, wood-consuming insect of the infraorder Isoptera, in the order Blattodea.


n. whitish soft-bodied ant-like social insect that feeds on wood [syn: white ant]


Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic. However, the first termites possibly emerged during the Permian or even the Carboniferous. About 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called white ants, they are not ants.

Like ants and some bees and wasps from the separate order Hymenoptera, termites divide labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female "workers" and "soldiers". All colonies have fertile males called "kings" and one or more fertile females called "queens". Termites mostly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung. Termites are major detritivores, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, and their recycling of wood and plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.

Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except for Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with several million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens living up to 50 years. Unlike ants, which undergo a complete metamorphosis, each individual termite goes through an incomplete metamorphosis that proceeds through egg, nymph, and adult stages. Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself.

Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures and are used in many traditional medicines. Several hundred species are economically significant as pests that can cause serious damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests. Some species, such as the West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are regarded as invasive species.

Termite (disambiguation)

A termite is an insect.

Termite may also refer to:

  • Beatnik Termites, a Cleveland, Ohio power pop band
  • Termites from Mars, an animated cartoon
  • The Termites, a UK pop group who in 1965 released a cover of The Rolling Stones' song Tell Me
  • The Termites, a psychobilly five-piece band from Scotland formed in 1985
  • A nickname for the participants in Lewis Terman's study of gifted children

Usage examples of "termite".

Brandenburg Concertos for my ear, but I am open to wonder whether the same events are recalled by the rhythms of insects, the long, pulsing runs of birdsong, the descants of whales, the modulated vibrations of a million locusts in migration, the tympani of gorilla breasts, termite heads, drumfish bladders.

A society of ants, bees, or termites achieves a kind of individuality at a higher level.

The carers are the workers-infertile males and females in the termites, infertile females in all other social insects.

It was trapped in what must have seemed like a huge glass cell held by a creature so gigantic that the termite could never even begin to imagine it.

Then we crawl close, morph termites, dig under the force field, and enter the termite holes in the outside of the building.

I think, judging from the termite Tobias brought us, that we are going to be mor-phing soldier termites.

At one end I sensed the termite head and useless, waving termite arms.

If I failed, I would live out the rest of my life as a mindless slave of the termite queen.

But even in my quaking fear I knew anything was better than going back down into that termite colony.

From the great cats in Africa that cold-bloodedly search out the young and weak gazelles, to the terrible wars that are fought out in anthills and termite colonies.

But I could almost have sworn that the ant was carrying the dead, dried-out husk of the termite queen.

I kill the termite queen to save myself and my friends, then I feel bad about it.

At first glance, he appears to be an ordinary, motile protozoan, remarkable chiefly for the speed and directness with which he swims from place to place, engulfing fragments of wood finely chewed by his termite host.

In the termite ecosystem, an arrangement of Byzantine complexity, he stands at the epicenter.

Deprived of antennae, any termite can become a group termite if touched frequently enough by the others.