caterpillar

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noun, often attributive cat·er·pil·lar \ ˈka-tər-ˌpi-lər , -tə- \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of caterpillar

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

Recent Examples of caterpillar from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of caterpillar

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


Caterpillar

trademark

Definition of Caterpillar

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

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noun

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

: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.”



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