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 Common pests include the tomato hornworm (a large green caterpillar that can be picked off by hand), aphids (which can be sprayed with a mild solution of soapy water), and whiteflies. Christopher Michel, Country Living, "Here's Exactly How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes," 19 Apr. 2021 And the caterpillar did make it with some human intervention. Eoin O'carroll, The Christian Science Monitor, "Want to manipulate the flow of time? Pay attention.," 8 Mar. 2021 But a caterpillar had gotten stuck in my bedroom window between the screen and the window pane. Eoin O'carroll, The Christian Science Monitor, "Want to manipulate the flow of time? Pay attention.," 8 Mar. 2021 Now, as global temperatures rise, a caterpillar barely the size of a paper clip may threaten California's position as the world's leading producer of almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Star Tribune, "Character Building Cold - Temps Stay Subzero Sunday," 6 Feb. 2021 The comic series tells various stories in a mystical, carnival-like universe, starting with a caterpillar who can’t keep up with his family and finds help from new friends to make his way in the world. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, "59 books by Cleveland authors released in 2020," 18 Dec. 2020 Sure enough, each weirdly intense caterpillar of seismic waves corresponded to a train, with the highest-amplitude waves correlating with the nearest track’s schedule, only a half mile from home. Alka Tripathy-lang, Ars Technica, "As the world quieted down in 2020, Raspberry Shakes listened," 17 Dec. 2020 Unfortunately for the caterpillar, that egg soon hatches into a larva, which feeds on its insides. Matt Simon, Wired, "‘Godzilla’ Wasp Swims—So Its Young Can Burst Out of Caterpillars," 9 Nov. 2020 Once the tube is cool, the wasp fills the cavity with mud, an egg and a bit of prey, like a caterpillar. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "In Australia, Just One Wasp Can Ground an Airplane With a Strategically Placed Nest," 1 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for caterpillar

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for caterpillar

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Caterpillar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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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

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

Comments on caterpillar

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