in mothballs


  1. a small ball of naphthalene or sometimes of camphor for placing in closets or other storage areas to repel moths from clothing, blankets, etc.

verb (used with object)

  1. to put into storage or reserve; inactivate.


  1. inactive; unused; stored away: a mothball fleet.
  1. in mothballs,
    1. in disuse or in storage, especially with reference to standby equipment.
    2. (of ideas) dismissed as unworthy of further deliberation.


  1. Also called: camphor ball a small ball of camphor or naphthalene used to repel clothes moths in stored clothing, blankets, etc
  2. put in mothballs to postpone work on (a project, activity, etc)

verb (tr)

  1. to prepare (a ship, aircraft, etc) for a long period of storage by sealing all openings with plastic to prevent corrosion
  2. to take (a factory, plant, etc) out of operation but maintain it so that it can be used in the future
  3. 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.

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