noun, often attributive
cat·​er·​pil·​lar | \ ˈka-tər-ˌpi-lər How to pronounce caterpillar (audio) , -tə- \

Definition of caterpillar

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Definition of Caterpillar (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Examples of caterpillar in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The film begins with a delicate yet forceful metaphor that equates the populace to the cells within a caterpillar that have to fight vehemently with the body surrounding them to morph into soaring butterflies. Holly Jones, Variety, 30 Apr. 2022 However, the caterpillar that had a cameo in the movie remains. Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times, 8 Mar. 2022 Florida can be dangerous in many ways, but from mid-April to early May, health officials warn people in the state to avoid touching a fuzzy caterpillar. Richard Tribou,, 12 Apr. 2022 Depending upon the caterpillar’s age, size may range from 0.25 to 1.5 inches. oregonlive, 28 Oct. 2021 Children held up a long piece of fabric meant to look like a caterpillar. Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2021 This 2017 photo by Holland Haverkamp shows a browntail moth caterpillar in Maine. CBS News, 26 Feb. 2022 Losing a few leaves on a vine to a caterpillar probably doesn’t warrant any action. Joe Boldt, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Feb. 2022 Just using the latest technology will only make your company a faster caterpillar. Ashok Reddy, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caterpillar.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of caterpillar


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for caterpillar


Middle English catyrpel, from Anglo-French *catepelose, literally, hairy cat

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Time Traveler for caterpillar

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The first known use of caterpillar was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Caterpillar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for caterpillar


cat·​er·​pil·​lar | \ ˈka-tər-ˌpi-lər How to pronounce caterpillar (audio) , ˈka-tə-ˌpi- \

Kids Definition of caterpillar

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

More from Merriam-Webster on caterpillar

Nglish: Translation of caterpillar for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of caterpillar for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about caterpillar


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