What do you call the skin shed by an insect or worm? I am sure there's a word for it, and also is there another verb that means "shed a skin"? Because "shed a skin" is a verb and I am wondering if there's a word replacement for it.

4 Answers 4


Worms don't shed their skin. Snakes do, but you'd call the shed skin a "snake skin". Generally there is no special word, you just say "'animal name' skin" or "... shell" (depending on how hard it is)

Most insects don't shed their skins as adults. Some do shed a skin as they transform from larvae to adult insects. For example, cicada will leave "cicada shells" on trees. You occasionally find grasshopper shells too. You also find shed crab shells and the shed skins of spiders.

The verb is usually "shed" but you can also "moult" and "slough" (as per comment) (Moult also means replacing hair or feathers)

There is a highly technical word, but don't use it unless you are writing a scientific paper. I didn't know this word before researching this answer.

The technical word is exuvia (plural exuviae)

  • 2
    Some other words you can use for the process are moulting and sloughing.
    – Showsni
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 20:39
  • Yes, moulting seems to be the word I forgot. Not sure if there's a word for the skin though. I keep seeing these skins on the floor of my apartment.
    – Sayaman
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 20:40
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    Note: slough is pronounced 'sluff'. Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 21:31
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    @GregSchmit but what will really bake your noodle is "slough" is "sluff" but "Slough" rhymes with "cow".
    – James K
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 13:05
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    @JamesK Sure it can. "Menstruation is the sloughing off and discharge of mucosal tissues and blood from the uterus", it is a rather clinical sounding description Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 13:12

An old word that used to be used was "husk". The OED has this as an obsolete word for "The coriaceous wing-case of an insect; an elytron", or an archaic word for "The shell or case of a chrysalis; a cocoon." that could be left behind.

Not a modern or technically correct word, but it would be valid as a poetic alternative.


Whether or not insects or worms shed their skin (and at least spiders seem to), the overall word is molt (or in UK English, moult). It can be both a verb and a noun:

intransitive verb
: to shed hair, feathers, shell, horns, or an outer layer periodically
// Birds molt once or twice a year.

transitive verb : to cast off (an outer covering) periodically specifically : to throw off (the old cuticle (see CUTICLE sense 1)) —used of arthropods
// a spider, like a lobster, molts its covering as it grows
— Eugene Kinkead

: the act or process of molting
specifically : ECDYSIS

  • 1
    Does the noun refer to the process or to the sloughed off object?
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 13:56

The word is "Exuviae"

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