- any of numerous black, red, brown, or yellow social insects of the family Formicidae, of worldwide distribution especially in warm climates, having a large head with inner jaws for chewing and outer jaws for carrying and digging, and living in highly organized colonies containing wingless female workers, a winged queen, and, during breeding seasons, winged males, some species being noted for engaging in warfare, slavemaking, or the cultivation of food sources.
- have ants in one’s pants, Slang. to be impatient or eager to act or speak.
- any small social insect of the widely distributed hymenopterous family Formicidae, typically living in highly organized colonies of winged males, wingless sterile females (workers), and fertile females (queens), which are winged until after matingSee also army ant, fire ant, slave ant, wood ant Related adjective: formic
- white ant another name for a termite
- have ants in one’s pants slang to be restless or impatient
c.1500, from Middle English ampte (late 14c.), from Old English æmette “ant,” from West Germanic *amaitjo (cf. Old High German ameiza, German Ameise) from a compound of bases *ai- “off, away” + *mai- “cut,” from PIE *mai- “to cut” (cf. maim). Thus the insect’s name is, etymologically, “the biter off.”
As þycke as ameten crepeþ in an amete hulle [chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, 1297]
Emmet survived into 20c. as an alternative form. White ant “termite” is from 1729. To have ants in one’s pants “be nervous and fidgety” is from 1934, made current by a popular song; antsy embodies the same notion.