Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
In storage, either literally or figuratively. Mothballs—little balls composed of a pungent chemical used to deter moths—are often kept in closets, attics, and other places where clothes are stored. I'm so glad that I can finally get my summer clothes out and put my winter clothes back in mothballs. That plane is in mothballs while we wait for a new shipment of parts. I did like your idea, Tom, but we have to keep it in mothballs for now while we finish our outstanding projects.
See also: mothball
bring something out of mothballs
Fig. to bring something out of storage and into use; to restore something to active service. They were going to bring a number of ships out of mothballs, but the war ended before they needed them.
put something in mothballs
1. Lit. to put something into storage in mothballs. He put his winter coat in storage with mothballs each fall and had to air it out for a week each spring.
2. Fig. to put something into storage or reserve. (Often said of warships.) The navy put the old cruiser in mothballs and no one ever expected to see it again. Let's just put this small bicycle in mothballs until we hear of a child who can use it.
put in mothballs
Defer indefinitely or for a very long time, as in We've put the plans for a new library in mothballs. This expression alludes to storing woolen clothing or other items with marble-size balls of naphthalene or camphor to prevent them from being damaged by moths. [1940s]