chameleon

noun, often attributive cha·me·leon \ kə-ˈmēl-yən \
Updated on: 8 Nov 2017

Definition of chameleon

1 :any of a family (Chamaeleontidae) of chiefly arboreal (see arboreal 2) Old World lizards with prehensile (see prehensile 1) tail, independently movable eyeballs, and unusual ability to change the color of the skin
2 a :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.

chameleonic

play \-ˌmē-lē-ˈä-nik\ adjective

chameleonlike

play \-ˌlīk\ adjective

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Examples of chameleon in a Sentence

  1. 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 of chameleon from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of chameleon

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


CHAMELEON Defined for English Language Learners

chameleon

noun

Definition of chameleon for English Language Learners

  • : a type of lizard that can change the color of its skin to look like the colors that are around it

  • : a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behavior in order to please others or to succeed


CHAMELEON Defined for Kids

chameleon

noun cha·me·leon \ kə-ˈmēl-yən \

Definition of chameleon for Students

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

History for chameleon

Many of the lizards of the Old World must have looked quite startling. They may even have reminded the ancients of small lions. The Greeks gave these strange-looking lizards the name chamaileōn, a compound of chamai, “on the ground,” and leōn, “lion.” The English word chameleon came from the Greek word.



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