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[mawth-bawl, moth-] /ˈmɔθˌbɔl, ˈmɒθ-/

a small of naphthalene or sometimes of camphor for placing in closets or other storage areas to repel from clothing, blankets, etc.
verb (used with object)
to put into storage or reserve; inactivate.
inactive; unused; stored away:
a mothball fleet.
in mothballs,

Also called camphor ball. a small ball of camphor or naphthalene used to repel clothes moths in stored clothing, blankets, etc
put in mothballs, to postpone work on (a project, activity, etc)
verb (transitive)
to prepare (a ship, aircraft, etc) for a long period of storage by sealing all openings with plastic to prevent corrosion
to take (a factory, plant, etc) out of operation but maintain it so that it can be used in the future
to postpone work on (a project, activity, etc)

also moth-ball, moth ball, “naphthalene ball stored among fabrics to keep off moths,” 1891, from moth + ball (n.1).

1902 in a literal sense (to store away with mothballs), from mothball (n.); figurative sense from 1901.


To take something out of active use and preserve it for the future, as clothing is stored with mothballs: ”It’s really sad to see Buran on the ground.” It was used in 1988 and then mothballed (1949+)

Related Terms

in mothballs
see: put in mothballs


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