See also: white-ant

English

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Etymology

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From white + ant, reflecting a superficial resemblance to the ant.

  1. Coordinate terms: black ant, red ant

Noun

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white ant (plural white ants)

  1. (informal) A termite.
    • 1885 October, Henry Drummond, “The White Ant: A Theory”, in Popular Science Monthly, page 741:
      The most important point in the work of the white ant remains to be noted. I have already said that the white ant is never seen.
    • 1971 June 3, “Technology Review: Spoiling the termite′s dinner”, in New Scientist, page 573:
      The most voracious cable-muncher in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia is the termite, or white ant, which eats through both lead and polythene sheathings.
    • 1990 December 13, Kenya National Assembly Official Record (Hansard), page D.3,
      Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am happy to hear that the hon. Member appreciates the fact that white ants cause a lot [of] destruction in his area. There is very little we can do about white ants.
    • 1995, Bill Sheat, Gerald Schofield, Complete Gardening in Southern Africa, page 424:
      White ants destroy living plants by removing the epidermal layers, effectively ‘ringbarking’ the subject.
    • 2010, David Livingstone, “15: Conversations on Rain-Making”, in Roy Richard Grinker, Stephen C. Lubkemann, Christopher B. Steiner, editors, Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History and Representation, page 246:
      Our house was built on a hard ferruginous conglomerate, in order to be out of the way of the white ant, but they came in despite the precaution; [] .

Usage notes

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  • Since a white ant is not a true ant (though its form and behaviour appear to suggest a relationship), the term termite is generally preferred, especially in scientific contexts.

Translations

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