"nocturnal lepidopterous insect," Middle English motthe, from Old English moððe (Northumbrian mohðe), a common Germanic word (compare Old Norse motti, Middle Dutch motte, Dutch mot, German Motte "moth"), perhaps related to Old English maða "maggot," or perhaps from the root of midge (q.v.). Until 16c. the word was used mostly of the larva and usually in reference to devouring woolen fabrics (see Matthew vi.20). Words for the adult moth in Middle English included flindre (mid-14c.), which is cognate with Dutch vlinder "butterfly." Moth-eaten is attested from late 14c.
updated on February 27, 2019