Definition of caterpillar in English:

caterpillar

Line breaks: cat¦er|pil¦lar
Pronunciation: /ˈkatəpɪlə
 
/

noun

  • 1The larva of a butterfly or moth, which has a segmented body resembling a worm with three pairs of true legs and several pairs of leg-like appendages.
    More example sentences
    • Flying to several sites to deposit eggs is a strategy used by all moths and butterflies whose caterpillars must hide from predators.
    • Yet Crawley cautions that the crops his team examined had been engineered to resist herbicides, moth and butterfly caterpillars, and perhaps those qualities didn't matter much in the wild.
    • The children compared one state of growth to another as the larvae became caterpillars, then butterflies.
  • 1.1(In general use) any insect larva resembling the larvae of caterpillars and moths, especially that of the sawfly.
    More example sentences
    • For much of the year, most birds feed primarily on insects - everything from caterpillars to mosquitoes, aphids, and mites.
    • There are more caterpillars and other insects, which are important foods for several types of birds living in the forest understory, in thinned stands that encourage more hardwood shrubs.
    • Children collect termite, snails, and the caterpillars of several insects.
  • 2 (also caterpillar track or tread) trademark An articulated steel band passing round the wheels of a vehicle for travel on rough ground.
    More example sentences
    • The first ‘tank’ to have any form of caterpillar track was a vehicle designed by Lieutenant W Wilson and William Tritton called ‘Little Willie’.
    • He developed caterpillar tracks that replaced wheels on combine harvesters.
    • This is a yellow JCB vehicle on two large caterpillar tracks with a cab that can rotate all the way around, and a big scoop on an articulated arm at the front.
  • 2.1A vehicle with caterpillar tracks.
    More example sentences
    • Mr Hall said: ‘He was knocked to the ground and the caterpillar wheels went over him and completely mashed his leg.’
    • A cohort of caterpillars bands together to travel in a long column, looking to all the world like the dangerous body of a single, large snake.
    • Inside is rosewood luxury, downstairs bunks and beds, and under them, two six hundred horsepower caterpillars capable of pushing them across the sea at thirty-five knots.

Origin

late Middle English: perhaps from a variant of Old French chatepelose, literally 'hairy cat', influenced by obsolete piller 'ravager'. The association with ‘cat’ is found in other languages, e.g. Swiss German Teufelskatz (literally 'devil's cat'), Lombard gatta (literally 'cat'). Compare with French chaton, English catkin, which resembles a hairy caterpillar.

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Pronunciation: ˌkɒlərəˈtjʊərə
noun
elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody