A Eurasian genus of chafers (beetles) which comprises the cockchafers or May bugs; (also melolontha) a beetle of this genus, especially the common Melolontha melolontha.
Early 18th century; earliest use found in Phillips's New World of Words. From post-classical Latin melolontha (U. AldrovandusDe Animalibus Insectisiv. v. 444; subsequently in scientific Latin as genus name: E. Geoffroy St-HilaireHist. abregée des insectes qui se trouvent aux environs de Paris I. 195) from ancient Greek μηλολόνθη cockchafer, lit. ‘fig sheep’ (because of the tendency of such insects to feed on figs) from μῆλον sheep + ὄλονθος fruit of the wild fig, a formation in -νθος of unknown origin.