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chameleon

[kuh-mee-lee-uh n, -meel-yuh n]
noun
  1. 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.
  2. any of several American lizards capable of changing the color of the skin, especially Anolis carolinensis (American chameleon), of the southeastern U.S.
  3. a changeable, fickle, or inconstant person.
  4. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. Chamaeleon.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for chameleonic

chameleon

noun
  1. 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
  2. a changeable or fickle person
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Derived Formschameleonic (kəˌmiːlɪˈɒnɪk), adjectivechameleon-like, adjective

Word Origin

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

chameleon

n.

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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper