noun, often attributive
cha·​me·​leon | \ kə-ˈmēl-yən How to pronounce chameleon (audio) \

Definition of chameleon

1 : any of a family (Chamaeleontidae) of chiefly arboreal (see arboreal sense 2) Old World lizards with prehensile (see prehensile sense 1) tail, independently movable eyeballs, and unusual ability to change the color of the skin
2a : a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behavior in order to please others or to succeed She's a political chameleon.
b : one that is subject to quick or frequent change especially in appearance Tourmaline is the chameleon of the gem kingdom because it can assume virtually any color.

Other Words from chameleon

chameleonic \ kə-​ˌmē-​lē-​ˈä-​nik How to pronounce chameleon (audio) \ adjective
chameleonlike \ kə-​ˈmēl-​yən-​ˌlīk How to pronounce chameleon (audio) \ adjective

Did you know?

The chameleon is probably best known for the ability to change colors - but when the ancients named this lizard, they apparently had other qualities in mind. "Chameleon" comes to us, via Latin, from Greek chamaileōn, a combination of "chamai" ("on the ground") and "leōn" ("lion") - a tribute, perhaps, to the lizard's fearsome aspect. It is the ability of the chameleon to change colors, however, that has led to the figurative use of "chameleon" for someone or something that is quick to change. Such figurative use dates back to at least the late 16th century, as demonstrated by King James VI who, writing in 1586 or 1587, requested "I praye you not to takk me to be a Camelion."

Examples of chameleon in a Sentence

at the summer resort he acquired a reputation as a social chameleon—someone who could be whatever his hosts wanted him to be
Recent Examples on the Web The clearest picture of what’s ahead, but Vance has been a chameleon. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 13 May 2022 Ever the chameleon, Myers is taking on eight different roles in the new series. Sasha Urban, Variety, 16 Mar. 2022 The Isolation Album and set the tone for what’s still to come from the West Coast chameleon. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 14 Mar. 2022 With his wife of 15 years, professional photographer Holly Cruikshank Ireland, and their two daughters, Addy and Brooke, Ireland has adopted four pet reptiles: a Florida king snake, an African ball python, a bearded dragon and a panther chameleon. San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Apr. 2022 Thanks to her wardrobe, Kim Kardashian has become a perpetual chameleon. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, 19 Apr. 2022 Although the plot remains under wraps, Goldman revealed that Dujardin will play Alphonse, a chameleon-like man whose main mission is to please women and satisfy all their wishes. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 12 Apr. 2022 Like a chameleon that changes colors in a shifting environment, solitaire has blended into my life in different ways at different times, offering glimpses into the emotions and experiences of a particular moment from childhood up to the present. Robbie Shell, WSJ, 24 Oct. 2021 Like a chameleon, the singer-guitarist’s style has changed with many of her recent album releases. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, 19 Oct. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chameleon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of chameleon

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chameleon

Middle English camelion, from Middle French, from Latin chamaeleon, from Greek chamaileōn, from chamai on the ground + leōn lion — more at humble

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The first known use of chameleon was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Chameleon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for chameleon


cha·​me·​leon | \ kə-ˈmēl-yən How to pronounce chameleon (audio) \

Kids Definition of chameleon

: a lizard that has the ability to change the color of its skin

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Nglish: Translation of chameleon for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chameleon for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about chameleon


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