Student Dictionary

2 entries found for chameleon.
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Main Entry: cha·me·leon
Pronunciation: kschwa-primarystressmemacronl-yschwan
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English chamelion "chameleon," from early French chamelion (same meaning), from Latin chamaeleon (same meaning), from Greek chamaileomacrn, from chamai "on the ground" and leomacrn "lion"
1 : any of various lizards that can vary the color of their skin
2 : a person who easily or frequently changes attitude or purpose
Word History The chameleon of the Old World has a fierce look. The Greeks called it chamaileomacrn, combining their words chamai, meaning "on the ground," and leomacrn "lion." It may be that the upright ridge of skin behind the head of many of these lizards reminded them of the lion's mane. The Romans borrowed the Greek word for this little creature, and the French later took the Latin word. For a long time after the word was borrowed into Middle English, it was spelled chamelion, with the ending like our modern word lion. But after a time writers who knew the form of the word in ancient Greek and Latin changed the spelling to chameleon, to match the original form. From its basic use as the name of a creature able to change its color with its mood or the temperature, the word came to be used for a person who is changeable.
[chameleon illustration]

Pronunciation Symbols