noun, cat·er·pil·lar often attributive \ˈka-tə(r)-ˌpi-lər\

: a small creature that is like a worm with many legs and that changes to become a butterfly or moth

Full Definition of CATERPILLAR

:  the elongated wormlike larva of a butterfly or moth; also :  any of various similar larvae


Middle English catyrpel, from Anglo-French *catepelose, literally, hairy cat
First Known Use: 15th century



Definition of CATERPILLAR

—used for a tractor made for use on rough or soft ground and moved on two endless metal belts
CATERPILLAR Defined for Kids


noun cat·er·pil·lar \ˈka-tər-ˌpi-lər, ˈka-tə-ˌpi-\

Definition of CATERPILLAR for Kids

:  the wormlike larva of an insect and usually a butterfly or moth

Word History of CATERPILLAR

Our common word for a butterfly or moth larva first appeared in the 1400s as catirpel. It is almost certainly borrowed from a medieval French word which we know only in modern French dialects as catepeleuse, literally, hairy cat. Similar applications of a name for a furry animal to fuzzy larvae are English woolly bear and French chenille, caterpillar, descended from Latin canicula, little dog.
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