- 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.
- 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, etcAlso called: white ant
n.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).
- 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