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

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 For some others, inspiration has come from nature in the form of plastic-eating caterpillars, mealworms, wax worms, and fungi. Eva Botkin-kowacki, The Christian Science Monitor, "Closing the loop on plastic recycling?," 5 July 2018 It was sparked by promising news of a caterpillar, called a waxworm, that eats plastic. Cate Mcquaid,, "Liz Shepherd and Michelle Lougee make the mundane memorable," 27 June 2018 Each caterpillar has approximately 62,000 of the white bristles. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Invasive, toxic caterpillars that can kill are about to invade parts of London," 30 Apr. 2018 Well, caterpillars are members of the order Lepidoptera. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, "Here’s what’s eating your currant bushes and ‘spitting’ on your wild roses," 13 July 2018 Pergola posted the story on Facebook with two photos -- one of the caterpillar, one of the rash on Logan's arm. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Venomous caterpillar sends teen to emergency room with "the worst pain he ever felt"," 20 June 2018 But not everyone likes the idea of eating beetles, caterpillars or crickets. The Economist, "The future of food, served up right here in augmented reality," 7 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

23 Sep 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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a state of commotion or excitement

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