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

This fall, the caterpillars that emerge from chrysalis as butterflies will gorge on flower nectar before making the marathon migration 2,000 miles south to the mountains and hillsides of an oyamel forest in Michoacan. Christopher Magan, Twin Cities, "Seeing more Monarchs? Your milkweed garden might be working.," 19 Aug. 2019 The caterpillar’s high season is usually mid-May through June. USA TODAY, "Robot hostesses, veggie booze, ‘civil death’: News from around our 50 states," 4 July 2019 Monarch caterpillars and butterflies are special and reportedly making a recovery this year. Tom Maccubbin,, "Leaving seed pods on canna plants isn’t necessary," 7 June 2019 Tenniel’s caterpillar is better than Santore’s, but when Alice upsets and shows her mastery over the Red Queen and other playing cards, Santore wins. Thomas Hine,, "Woodmere's Charles Santore show is a trove of illustration, from Columbo to Cowardly Lion," 28 Mar. 2018 Spray the trees while caterpillars are small, usually around mid-June. Anna Bauman, Detroit Free Press, "Gypsy moths could strip trees bare in southern Michigan this year, experts warn," 12 Jan. 2016 When a caterpillar builds its chrysalis, its whole body dissolves into goo and then the DNA gets rearranged into a completely different animal and that animal is what gets reborn. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "Behind the Scenes: Stranger Things 3 podcast reveals how puberty inspired the Mind Flayer's monster," 25 July 2019 The eggs hatch and the tiny green caterpillars start eating. Joan Morris, The Mercury News, "What was this caterpillar up to in a Pleasant Hill garden bed?," 15 July 2019 The tomato hornworm is a large, green caterpillar with a red horn on its rear. Dan Gill,, "Protect tomatoes from these diseases and pests," 13 Apr. 2019

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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Statistics for caterpillar

Last Updated

9 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for caterpillar

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

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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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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