caterpillar

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

Definition of caterpillar

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

Origin and Etymology of caterpillar

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


First Known Use: 15th century


Caterpillar

trademark cat·er·pil·lar

Definition of Caterpillar

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


CATERPILLAR Defined for English Language Learners

caterpillar

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

Definition of caterpillar for English Language Learners

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


CATERPILLAR Defined for Kids

caterpillar

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

Definition of caterpillar for Students

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

History for 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.”



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up caterpillar? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

to link together in a series or chain

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • winning-words-from-the-national-spelling-bee-logo
  • Which is the correct spelling of the winning word from 1988?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!