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
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.>
chameleonicplay \-ˌmē-lē-ˈä-nik\ adjective
chameleonlikeplay \-ˌlīk\ adjective
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>
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
First Known Use: 14th century
CHAMELEON Defined for English Language Learners
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
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.
Learn More about chameleon
See words that rhyme with chameleon Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chameleon Spanish Central: Translation of chameleon Nglish: Translation of chameleon for Spanish speakers Britannica English: Translation of chameleon for Arabic speakers Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about chameleon
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