Simple Definition of chameleon
: a type of lizard that can change the color of its skin to look like the colors that are around it
: a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behavior in order to please others or to succeed
Full Definition of chameleon
1 : any of a family (Chamaeleontidae) of chiefly arboreal Old World lizards with prehensile tail, independently movable eyeballs, and unusual ability to change the color of the skin
2 a : a person given to often expedient or facile change in ideas or character b : one that is subject to quick or frequent change especially in appearance
Examples of chameleon in a sentence
<at the summer resort he acquired a reputation as a social chameleon—someone who could be whatever his hosts wanted him to be>
Did You Know?
The chameleon is probably best known for the ability to change colors - but when the ancients named this lizard, they apparently had other qualities in mind. "Chameleon" comes to us, via Latin, from Greek chamaileōn, a combination of "chamai" ("on the ground") and "leōn" ("lion") - a tribute, perhaps, to the lizard's fearsome aspect. It is the ability of the chameleon to change colors, however, that has led to the figurative use of "chameleon" for someone or something that is quick to change. Such figurative use dates back to at least the late 16th century, as demonstrated by King James VI who, writing in 1586 or 1587, requested "I praye you not to takk me to be a Camelion."
Origin of chameleon
Middle English camelion, from Middle French, from Latin chamaeleon, from Greek chamaileōn, from chamai on the ground + leōn lion — more at humble
First Known Use: 14th century
CHAMELEON Defined for Kids
Definition of chameleon for Students
: a lizard that has the ability to change the color of its skin
History for chameleon
Many of the lizards of the Old World must have looked quite startling. They may even have reminded the ancients of small lions. The Greeks gave these strange-looking lizards the name chamaileōn, a compound of chamai, “on the ground,” and leōn, “lion.” The English word chameleon came from the Greek word.
Learn More about chameleon
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up chameleon? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).