- any of certain small flies, especially the biting gnats or punkies of the family Ceratopogonidae, the midges of the family Chironomidae, and the black flies of the family Simuliidae.
- British. mosquito.
- strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, to fuss about trifles while ignoring more serious matters.
Origin of gnat
Examples from the Web for gnat
Some kind of fly, gnit, gnat, tick or flea of some kind...the desert kind.Marine First Lieutenant Nathan Krissoff’s Last Letters Home From Iraq
May 26, 2013
He walked round them the first time, but there was no sign of the gnat.Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
The charming creatures will neither strain at a camel nor swallow a gnat.Notes on Life and Letters
The Gnat lay in the roadstead off Rathmullan, beyond reach that night.
I would shelter there till daylight summoned me to my post of duty on the Gnat.
But this would be straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel.
- any of various small fragile biting dipterous insects of the suborder Nematocera, esp Culex pipiens (common gnat), which abounds near stagnant water
Word Origin and History for gnat
Old English gnætt "gnat, midge, mosquito," earlier gneat, used of various small, flying insects, from Proto-Germanic *gnattaz (cf. Low German gnatte, German Gnitze); perhaps literally "biting insect" and related to gnaw.
The gnatte is a litil fflye, and hatte culex..he soukeþ blood and haþ in his mouþ a pipe, as hit were a pricke..And is a-countid a-mong volatiles..and greueþ slepinge men wiþ noyse & wiþ bytinge and wakeþ hem of here reste. [John of Trevisa, transl. of Bartholomew de Glanville's "De proprietatibus rerum," 1398]
- Any of various small, biting, two-winged flies, such as a biting midge or black fly.