noun, often attributive
cat·​er·​pil·​lar | \ˈka-tər-ˌpi-lər, -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

Those two little caterpillars resting above your eyes are in the heyday of their golden age. Sable Yong, Allure, "How to Contour Your Brows With Benefit's New 4-in-1 Brow Contour Pro," 6 Aug. 2018 Many other wasp species also use complex venoms to parasitize spiders, caterpillars and even wasp larvae—sometimes turning them into zombie larva defenders. Christie Wilcox, Scientific American, "How a Wasp Turns Cockroaches into Zombies," 1 May 2017 Summers meant infestations of grasshoppers, caterpillars and June bugs. Abigail Jones, Newsweek, "The 'Post-Mankind' Vision of Photographer Lori Nix," 9 Feb. 2015 Grapes are susceptible to insects and diseases, such as caterpillars and fungus. Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, Indianapolis Star, "The Hoosier Gardener: Trip to Bordeaux wine country is an educational experience," 13 July 2018 Cannas can get a caterpillar that looks like a slug. Tom Maccubbin,, "Cannas take to the summer sun," 5 July 2018 Blue curl is a 3-foot-tall plant that has lavender-blue blooms shaped like a caterpillar. Calvin Finch, San Antonio Express-News, "What’s blooming in S.A. gardens now in April," 20 Apr. 2018 This is a native caterpillar and a great food source for birds. Ellen Nibali,, "Garden Q&A: Be wary of the 'bathtub effect'," 12 July 2018 Continue to spray regularly to control caterpillars. Dan Gill,, "How to identify and rid your garden of pesky tomato fruitworms," 19 May 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

2 Dec 2018

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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, 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).


living or existing for a long time

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