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[kuh-mee-lee-uh n, -meel-yuh n] /kəˈmi li ən, -ˈmil yən/
any of numerous Old World lizards of the family Chamaeleontidae, characterized by the ability to change the color of their skin, very slow locomotion, and a projectile tongue.
any of several American lizards capable of changing the color of the skin, especially Anolis carolinensis (American chameleon) of the southeastern U.S.
a changeable, fickle, or inconstant person.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. Chamaeleon.
Origin of chameleon
1300-50; variant of chamaeleon < Latin < Greek chamailéōn, equivalent to chamaí on the ground, dwarf (akin to humus) + léōn lion; replacing Middle English camelion < Middle French < Latin, as above
Related forms
[kuh-mee-lee-on-ik] /kəˌmi liˈɒn ɪk/ (Show IPA),
chameleonlike, adjective


[kuh-mee-lee-uh n, -meel-yuh n] /kəˈmi li ən, -ˈmil yən/
noun, genitive Chamaeleontis
[kuh-mee-lee-on-tis] /kəˌmi liˈɒn tɪs/ (Show IPA).
a small southern constellation between Musca and Hydrus.
Also, Chameleon.
From Latin Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for chameleon
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Not that mine is altogether a chameleon spirit, with no hue of its own.

  • I named my chameleon "Cross-ci Cross-a," in honour of Mr. Cross.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • During the day, no doubt, she melted into the sky like a chameleon.

    The Cruise of the Dry Dock T. S. Stribling
  • It is not pleasant to have you imitate the chameleon, in this manner.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • Lonnie didn't stop to question if it really was essence of chameleon juice.

    Zero Data Charles Saphro
British Dictionary definitions for chameleon


any lizard of the family Chamaeleontidae of Africa and Madagascar, having long slender legs, a prehensile tail and tongue, and the ability to change colour
a changeable or fickle person
Derived Forms
chameleonic (kəˌmiːlɪˈɒnɪk) adjective
chameleon-like, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Latin chamaeleon, from Greek khamaileōn, from khamai on the ground + leōnlion


noun (Latin genitive) Chamaeleontis (kəˌmiːlɪˈɒntɪs)
a faint constellation lying between Volans and the South celestial pole
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for chameleon

mid-14c., camelion, from Old French caméléon, from Latin chamaeleon, from Greek khamaileon "the chameleon," from khamai "on the ground" (also "dwarf"), akin to chthon "earth" (see chthonic) + leon "lion" (see lion). Perhaps the large head-crest on some species was thought to resemble a lion's mane. The classical -h- was restored in English early 18c. Figurative sense of "variable person" is 1580s. It formerly was supposed to live on air (cf. "Hamlet" III.ii.98).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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