[kuh-mee-lee-uh n, -meel-yuh n]


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 formscha·me·le·on·ic [kuh-mee-lee-on-ik] /kəˌmi liˈɒn ɪk/, adjectivecha·me·le·on·like, adjective


[kuh-mee-lee-uh n, -meel-yuh n]

noun, genitive Cha·mae·le·on·tis [kuh-mee-lee-on-tis] /kəˌmi liˈɒn tɪs/. Astronomy.

a small southern constellation between Musca and Hydrus.
Also Cha·me·le·on.

Origin of Chamaeleon

From Latin Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for chameleon

Contemporary Examples of chameleon

Historical Examples of chameleon

  • 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.

  • 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 Formschameleonic (kəˌmiːlɪˈɒnɪk), adjectivechameleon-like, adjective

Word Origin for chameleon

C14: from Latin chamaeleon, from Greek khamaileōn, from khamai on the ground + leōn lion


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

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