What word can I use to describe the small lump on the skin seen after a mosquito bite?


Technical terms aside, the most common phrase used to describe this is just mosquito bite.

I got a mosquito bite yesterday. It really itches.

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    Or, bug bite (esp. when the source is unknown, i.e., it could be from a mosquito, spider, or chigger). – J.R. May 16 '12 at 1:17
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    Itching skeeter bites just makes ’em worse. :) – tchrist May 16 '12 at 2:37
  • Bugs don't bite. Ask any bugger. They sting, prick, pierce, pincer, ..., but not bite. – Kris May 16 '12 at 8:01
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    @user20908, they may not actually bite, but that doesn't change what we call them. – JSBձոգչ May 16 '12 at 11:06
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    @JLG, wheal may be in general dictionaries, but it's still a "technical term" in the sense that many English speakers don't know the word and wouldn't understand it if you used it. I'm a well-educated adult native speaker, and I had never heard the word before I read your answer. – JSBձոգչ May 16 '12 at 13:16

It is a wheal:

A small swelling on the skin, as from an insect bite, that usually itches or burns.

Note: It is not just a technical/medical term; see these websites that also use the word:


Mosquito World

How Stuff Works

Wise Geek

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    Wheal is archaic - weal is the common spelling. – Optimal Cynic May 16 '12 at 1:13
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    @OptimalCynic, What is your source, please? In my Dorland's Medical Dictionary, 30th edition, and Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 2nd edition, wheal is the only spelling given. These are both current dictionaries. Also, the link I provided, lists weal as an alternate spelling. Wheal is not listed as archaic. – JLG May 16 '12 at 2:21
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    I always thought it was wheal too. The OED2 has † wheal, n.¹ meaning “A pimple, pustule.” marked as obsolete, with its last citation from 1707 “When she scratched the little Pimples or Wheals that arose on its surface.” But wheal n.² is current: “2. In modern medical use, a flat, usually circular, hard elevation of the skin, esp. that characteristic of urticaria.” Its etymology is listed as “Misspelt form of weal n.² Compare wheal v.²” This does all seem connected to a welt, but the OED has no definition of that word that matches my own use of it. Huh!? – tchrist May 16 '12 at 2:30
  • Of weal n.² the OED says of its etymology “A mod. variant of wale n.1, by confusion with wheal n.¹ a pustule: see wheal n.²” and gives its meaning as “The mark or ridge raised on the flesh by the blow of a rod, lash, etc.; = wale n.¹ 2, wheal n.²” For pronunciations, weal is given as /wiːl/ and wheal as /hwiːl/. I can’t find a welt /wɛlt/ with the weal sense. Whatever can I be thinking? – tchrist May 16 '12 at 2:36
  • Urticaria is basically hives; the entries for urticaria in both the Saunders and Dorland's dictionaries use the term "wheal" in the definition. From Dorland's: "urticaria: a vascular reaction, usually transient, involving the upper dermis...marked by the development of wheals." Urticaria is a technical/medical term; wheal is really not. – JLG May 16 '12 at 11:57

I would call this a welt. My impression is that this word is reasonably common and would be readily understood, much more so than weal.

Oddly, as tchrist pointed out in a comment on another answer, the OED doesn't really have this definition. The closest seems to be welt, n.1 definition 4c: A ridge on the flesh, esp. the mark of a healed wound; a seam. Could this be a British-American divide? (I'm a native American English speaker.)


A rather general way to describe any such skin protrusion is a swelling.

  • There may or may not be a swelling around the site of the 'bite' -- it's note the same as the 'bite'. – Kris May 16 '12 at 13:08

If the pain and itching are gone and the swelling minimal, then the term "bite-mark" would be what my dialect would dictate.

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    I would say that 'bite-mark' suggests that teeth impressions would be visible, such as if you'd been bitten by a person. For bug bites, I would simply say 'bite'. – Karl May 16 '12 at 5:06

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