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noun, plural lar·vae [lahr-vee] /ˈlɑr vi/.
  1. Entomology. the immature, wingless, feeding stage of an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis.
  2. any animal in an analogous immature form.
  3. the young of any invertebrate animal.
  4. larvae, Roman Antiquity. malignant ghosts, as lemures.
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Origin of larva

1645–55; < New Latin; special use of Latin larva a ghost, specter, mask, skeleton; akin to Lares
Can be confusedlarva lava
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for larvae


noun plural -vae (-viː)
  1. an immature free-living form of many animals that develops into a different adult form by metamorphosis
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Derived Formslarval, adjective

Word Origin

C18: (C17 in the original Latin sense: ghost): New Latin
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

Word Origin and History for larvae


plural of larva (q.v.).

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1650s, "a ghost, specter," from Latin larva (plural larvae), earlier larua "ghost," also "mask;" applied in biological sense 1768 by Linnaeus because immature forms of insects "mask" the adult forms. On the double sense of the Latin word, Carlo Ginzburg, among other students of mythology and folklore, has commented on "the well-nigh universal association between masks and the spirits of the dead."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

larvae in Medicine


n. pl. lar•vas
  1. The newly hatched, wingless, often wormlike form of many insects before metamorphosis.
  2. The newly hatched, earliest stage of any of various animals that undergo metamorphosis, differing markedly in form and appearance from the adult.
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Related formslarval adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

larvae in Science


Plural larvae (lär) larvas
  1. An animal in an early stage of development that differs greatly in appearance from its adult stage. Larvae are adapted to a different environment and way of life from those of adults and go through a process of metamorphosis in changing to adults. Tadpoles are the larvae of frogs and toads.
  2. The immature, wingless, and usually wormlike feeding form of those insects that undergo three stages of metamorphosis, such as butterflies, moths, and beetles. Insect larvae hatch from eggs, later turn into pupae, and finally turn into adults. Compare imago nymph pupa.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.