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[flee] /fli/
any of numerous small, wingless bloodsucking insects of the order Siphonaptera, parasitic upon mammals and birds and noted for their ability to leap.
either of two common fleas of the genus Ctenocephalides, the very small, black C. felis (cat flea) or the similar but larger C. canis (dog flea) both of which infest cats, dogs, and occasionally humans.
any of various small beetles and crustaceans that leap like a flea or swim in a jumpy manner, as the water flea and beach flea.
flea in one's ear,
  1. a disconcerting rebuke or rebuff:
    The next time he shows his face around here he'll get a flea in his ear.
  2. a broad hint.
Origin of flea
before 900; Middle English fle, Old English flēah, flēa; cognate with German Floh; akin to flee
Can be confused
flea, flee. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for flea
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And he is quite capable of crushing his heart, just as one might crush a flea.

  • And when the mouse saw the flea, he said to him, "what do you do for a living?"

    Five Mice in a Mouse-trap Laura E. Richards
  • What kind of flea has bitten your bride, Béla, I should like to know?

    A Bride of the Plains

    Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • You be off, Mr. Philip, without you want a flea in your ear.'

    The Magic City Edith Nesbit
  • "Try it, and you'll find the flea can bite before he's pinched," said Max.

    A Soldier of the Legion C. N. Williamson
British Dictionary definitions for flea


any small wingless parasitic blood-sucking insect of the order Siphonaptera, living on the skin of mammals and birds and noted for its power of leaping
any of various invertebrates that resemble fleas, such as the water flea and flea beetle
(informal) flea in one's ear, a sharp rebuke
Word Origin
Old English flēah; related to Old Norse flō, Old High German flōh
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for flea

Old English flea, from Proto-Germanic *flauhaz (cf. Old Norse flo, Middle Dutch vlo, German Floh), perhaps related to Old English fleon "to flee," with a notion of "the jumping parasite," or perhaps from PIE *plou- "flea" (cf. Latin pulex, Greek psylla; see puce).

Flea-bag "bed" is from 1839; flea circus is from 1886; flea collar is from 1953.

"A man named 'Mueller' put on the first trained-flea circus in America at the old Stone and Austin museum in Boston nearly forty years ago. Another German named 'Auvershleg' had the first traveling flea circus in this country thirty years ago. In addition to fairs and museums, I get as high as $25 for a private exhibition." ["Professor" William Heckler, quoted in "Popular Mechanics," February 1928. Printed at the top of his programs were "Every action is visible to the naked eye" and "No danger of desertion."]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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flea in Medicine

flea (flē)
Any of various small, wingless, bloodsucking insects of the order Siphonaptera that have legs adapted for jumping and are parasitic in the hair and feathers of warm-blooded animals.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Idioms and Phrases with flea
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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