n. 1651 'disembodied spirit; ghost', from Lat. larva 'ghost (of the dead that pursues the living)'.

The New English application to insects in grub state owes to Linnaeus. The former sense is obsolete except with the adjective 'ghostly' which survives regionally.

The larva or volto (»ghost« and »face«, respectively) is a commonly worn type of Venetian Carnival mask. It is an egg-round full-face mask with a blank expression and somewhat feminine features; it is used by both sexes and often inordinately highly decorated in this day and age, although the original form was, as the name implies, just white. It is made of papier-mâché or sometimes, these days, out of plaster or porcelain, if made for decorative purposes, to be hung on a wall or the like.

It is impossible to eat in a larva, since the edge of the mask curls under the chin and any mouth-hole is liable to be a mere slit, and the humongous plumes with which the mask is commonly adorned make it more inconvenient still; nevertheless, it retains a strong popularity because of the large surface it provides for decoration with spangles, gilding, arabesques and so forth. On account of its blank expression it also lends itself easily to being worked into a themed costume.


Lar"va (?), n.; pl. L. Larvae (#), E. Larvas (#). [L. larva ghost, specter, mask.]

1. Zool.

Any young insect from the time that it hatches from the egg until it becomes a pupa, or chrysalis. During this time it usually molts several times, and may change its form or color each time. The larvae of many insects are much like the adults in form and habits, but have no trace of wings, the rudimentary wings appearing only in the pupa stage. In other groups of insects the larvae are totally unlike the parents in structure and habits, and are called caterpillars, grubs, maggots, etc.

2. Zool.

The early, immature form of any animal when more or less of a metamorphosis takes place, before the assumption of the mature shape.


© Webster 1913.

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