from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A neuropterous insect of the family Ephemeridæ; one of the Ephemerina; an ephemerid; a day-fly. See the technical words, and cut under day-fly.
  • noun In Great Britain, a neuropterous insect of the suborder Trichoptera, and especially of the family Phryganeidæ, as Sialis lutaria; the caddis-fly.
  • noun An artificial fly made in imitation of the May-fly.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • It is still best known through literature, from the pages of Henry Williamson's 1920s 'novel Tarka the Otter, or for its fleeting appearances in Wind in the Willows - "a swirl of water and a' cloop! 'and the may-fly was visible no more (and) neither was the otter, "- but now bolder members of the species can even occasionally be seen around town.

    River clean-up brings otters back from brink of extinction Stephen Bates 2010

  • The may-fly dies almost before it is born, and even the swan's song in the sun evokes a smile as serene as Mary's (stanza ii).

    The Loves of Plants and Animals: Romantic Science and the Pleasures of Nature 2001

  • In a previous chapter (IV.pp. 30, 34) reference has been made to the contrast between the long aquatic life of the larval dragon-fly or may-fly, extending over several years, and the short aerial existence of the winged adult restricted in the case of the may-flies to a few hours.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • An adult may-fly is one of the most delicate of insects; the head has elaborate compound eyes, but the feelers are very short, and the jaws are reduced to such tiny vestiges that the insect is unable to feed.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • Many years ago Gegenbaur (1878) was struck by the correspondence of insect wings to the tracheal gills of may-fly larvae, which are carried on the abdominal segments somewhat as wings are on the thoracic segments.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • But in the may-fly larva, there is a series of these gills (fig. 9_b_) arranged laterally in pairs on the abdominal segments, and C. Börner (1909) has recently given reasons, from the position and muscular attachments of these organs, for believing that they show a true correspondence to (in technical phraseology are homologous with) the thoracic legs.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • The sub-imaginal instar of the may-fly furnishes also a noteworthy fact for comparison with other insect histories.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • It is noteworthy that in these short-lived insects the male is often provided with elaborate sense-organs which, we may believe, assist him to find a mate with as little delay as possible; the male may-fly has especially complex eyes, while the feelers of the male silk-moth or eggar are comb-like or feathery, the branches bearing thousands of sensory hairs.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • Here we see that the feeding activities of the insect are carried on during the larval stage only; the may-fly in its winged condition takes no food, pairing and egg-laying form the whole of its appointed task.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902

  • The life-story of a may-fly follows the same general course as that just described for the dragon-flies, but there are some suggestive differences.

    The Life-Story of Insects 1902


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