chameleon

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.

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Other Words from chameleon

chameleonic \ kə-​ˌmē-​lē-​ˈä-​nik How to pronounce chameleonic (audio) \ adjective
chameleonlike \ kə-​ˈmēl-​yən-​ˌlīk How to pronounce chameleonlike (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 textbook definition of a chameleon, the 22-year-old flexes her versatility with a different head-swiveling hair-and-makeup moment at nearly every major appearance. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Zendaya’s 20 Best Rule-Breaking Hair Moments on the Red Carpet," 9 May 2019 One solution is that, like a chameleon, the field changes depending on the surrounding environment. Quanta Magazine, "Dark Energy Tested on a Tabletop," 31 Mar. 2015 Atlas Bistro Todd Sawyer’s restaurant is a chameleon. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "The best restaurants in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley," 1 July 2019 The great-great-granddaughter of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, Gloria was a chameleon, who successfully reinvented herself multiple times. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "How Much Is Anderson Cooper Worth?," 17 June 2019 To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that Jenner is known for being a beauty chameleon, switching up her hair and beauty looks virtually every week. Lily Rose, Teen Vogue, "Kylie Jenner’s Birthday Hair Extensions Cost Nearly $8,000," 16 Aug. 2018 Madonna has always been pop’s reigning chameleon, with each album (and movie) in her body of work representing a specific epoch in her MTV-era reign over the genre. Maura Johnston, BostonGlobe.com, "Madonna unbound on ‘Madame X’," 14 June 2019 Having lived and worked in Madagascar for years, Peter is an expert on the lemurs, chameleons, orchids, and butterflies of the island. National Geographic, "Peter Houlihan," 12 June 2019 The chameleons retain this new color till the next such encounter with an individual of a different color. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Why Are There Two Sexes?’," 28 July 2017

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.

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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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Statistics for chameleon

Last Updated

3 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for chameleon

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

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More Definitions for chameleon

chameleon

noun

English Language Learners Definition of chameleon

: a type of lizard that can change the color of its skin to look like the colors that are around it
usually disapproving : a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behavior in order to please others or to succeed

chameleon

noun
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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