Mantodea is an order of insects which contains approximately 2,200 species in 9 families worldwide. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae. Historically, the term "mantid" was used to refer to any member of the order because for most of the past century, only one family was recognized within the order; technically, however, the term only refers to this one family, meaning the species in the other eight recently-established families are not mantids, by definition (i.e., they are empusids, or hymenopodids, etc.), and the term "mantises" should be used when referring to the entire order. A colloquial name for the order is "praying mantises", because of the typical "prayer-like" stance, although the term is often mis-spelled as "preying mantis" since mantises are notoriously predatory. The word mantis is Greek for "prophet" or "fortune teller". In Europe, the name "praying mantis" refers to only a single species, Mantis religiosa. The closest relatives of mantises are the orders Isoptera (termites) and Blattodea (cockroaches), and these three groups together are sometimes ranked as an order rather than a superorder. They are often confused with phasmids (stick/leaf insects) and other elongated insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.
Mantidae is the largest family of the order Mantodea, commonly known as praying mantises; most are tropical or subtropical. Historically, this was the only family in the order, and many people and references still use the term "mantid" to refer to any mantis; technically, however, "mantid" refers only to members of Mantidae, and not the 8 remaining families of mantises. Note that some of the most recent classifications elevate a number of the mantid subfamilies to family rank, e.g. "Iridopterygidae", "Sibyllidae", "Tarachodidae", "Thespidae", and "Toxoderidae"), while other classifications have reduced the number of subfamilies without elevating to higher rank. Many species are found in North America, and the three most common are the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis), and the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). Of these, only the last is native to the continent - the European and Chinese species were introduced around the 1900s as garden predators in an attempt to control pest populations.