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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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for chameleon
  • chameleon babies get out of their eggs without the help of their parents.
  • Another possibility is that, if genuine, this carving is of a chameleon.
  • When the chameleon at left got too close, the one at right got mad.
  • Researchers have recently discovered four new chameleon species, which rank among the world's tiniest reptiles.
  • Another take on rustic is a faux metal look, attractive for chameleon properties that lend texture to the tile's surface.
  • chameleons survive, and no one thinks to ask what a chameleon is thinking.
  • Proverbially, the chameleon changes its color to suit every mood or situation.
  • So when a lizard or chameleon changes color that is evidence of a chemical change.
  • The green anole is a lizard that is sometimes called a chameleon because of its ability to change skin color from green to brown.
  • He is a chameleon, but he cannot change colors, and his asthma is acting up.
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
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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chameleon in the Bible

a species of lizard which has the faculty of changing the colour of its skin. It is ranked among the unclean animals in Lev. 11:30, where the Hebrew word so translated is _coah_ (R.V., "land crocodile"). In the same verse the Hebrew _tanshemeth_, rendered in Authorized Version "mole," is in Revised Version "chameleon," which is the correct rendering. This animal is very common in Egypt and in the Holy Land, especially in the Jordan valley.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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