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 My once-defined, lifted arch slowly began to resemble a fuzzy caterpillar as the weeks went on. Aimee Simeon,, "I Got My Brows Done During COVID-19 — & This Is How It Went," 11 Sep. 2020 The caterpillar makes a cocoon and the cocoon turns into a moth and then the moth hatches and makes larvae. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Northwest Houston area residents dealing with pesky sod webworms—again," 22 Aug. 2020 The caterpillar's headpiece buys it time, but having a predator become disgruntled and move onto other prey isn't guaranteed. Kristen Rogers, CNN, "Meet 'Mad Hatterpillar,' the caterpillar that uses its old heads for defense," 9 Aug. 2020 Use the vegetable garden as an opportunity to talk about where food comes from or watch butterflies flutter while discussing how the insect was once a caterpillar and chrysalis. Patrick Connolly,, "8 homeschooling field trip ideas to keep kids engaged," 12 Aug. 2020 Native to Australia, Uraba lugens is a strange caterpillar that stacks its molted heads atop each other. Kristen Rogers, CNN, "Meet 'Mad Hatterpillar,' the caterpillar that uses its old heads for defense," 9 Aug. 2020 And by embarking on this journey underscored by the grandest leap of faith, the caterpillar is reborn into a new being symbolizing the beautifully chaotic journey of life. Gabriel Casanova,, "2020 a year of transformation for new graduates," 10 June 2020 Females can lay hundreds of eggs, according to the agency, which become caterpillars and munch through more than 500 different tree and shrub species. Christina Maxouris, CNN, "Washington state now has another bug to worry about after 'murder hornets.' Gypsy moths," 7 May 2020 These include caterpillars coming out of your eyes, a gigantic swelling head, or being unable to speak. Alice Rudge, Quartz, "Why we laugh when we know we shouldn’t," 28 Aug. 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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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

22 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Caterpillar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for caterpillar


How to pronounce Caterpillar (audio)

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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