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

Every day, for instance, Mr. Heinrich sees the same Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar in the same spot on a leaf near his cabin in Maine. Hugh Raffles, WSJ, "‘A Naturalist at Large’ Review: The Habit of Taking a Closer Look," 30 Aug. 2018 In episode 3, Ash catches a Caterpie, a purring caterpillar Pokémon who has a conversation with Pikachu while the pair stargaze, existentially awed by the vastness of the universe. Devon Maloney, The Verge, "Today’s weird kids’ YouTube channels have nothing on the first season of Pokémon," 8 Sep. 2018 Just as the caterpillar is trapped in the darkness of its cocoon before emerging as a butterfly, destruction will always precede growth. Ebonee Davis, Harper's BAZAAR, "Model Ebonee Davis on How Suffering Leads to Power," 3 Nov. 2017 New inquiries keep him busy day and night and prompt contemplation of previous caterpillar encounters. Hugh Raffles, WSJ, "‘A Naturalist at Large’ Review: The Habit of Taking a Closer Look," 30 Aug. 2018 Answer: Healthy trees are capable of rebounding from a one-time caterpillar infestation. Tom Maccubbin,, "Caterpillar invasion isn't end for healthy tree," 14 July 2018 One thing is for certain: Bieber still has that very divisive caterpillar mustache. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Did Justin Bieber Just Get a Wedding Chop?," 9 Aug. 2018 Question: My hickory tree has been defoliated by caterpillars. Tom Maccubbin,, "Caterpillar invasion isn't end for healthy tree," 14 July 2018 The eggs hatch into caterpillars that eat the plants. Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, Indianapolis Star, "The Hoosier Gardener: Trip to Bordeaux wine country is an educational experience," 13 July 2018

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.

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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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Last Updated

25 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for caterpillar

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

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More Definitions for caterpillar



English Language Learners Definition of caterpillar

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


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on caterpillar

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with caterpillar

Spanish Central: Translation of caterpillar

Nglish: Translation of caterpillar for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on caterpillar

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


to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

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