Definition of chameleon in English:

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Pronunciation: /kəˈmiːlɪən/
(also chamaeleon)


Image of chameleon
1A small slow-moving Old World lizard with a prehensile tail, long extensible tongue, protruding eyes that rotate independently, and a highly developed ability to change colour.
  • Family Chamaeleonidae: four genera, in particular Chamaeleo, and numerous species, including the European chameleon (C. vulgaris).
Example sentences
  • We all understand the ability of the chameleon to change its colours to suit its environment.
  • There are many other snakes of all different sizes, as well as chameleons, geckos, lizards, skinks, iguanas, spiders and huge tortoises.
  • Raxworthy and colleagues developed a computer model to study chameleons, lizards known for their ability to change color depending on their mood or surroundings, in Madagascar.
1.1 (also American chameleon) North American An anole (tree-dwelling lizard).
Example sentences
  • They have been replaced by the corresponding segments of the pigment of American chameleon.
  • Among the saurian the iguanas can be pointed out, as well as the American chameleons and varanus.
  • In the pure-cone American chameleon retina, all visual opsins including rod opsin are expressed.
1.2 figurative A person who changes their opinions or behaviour according to the situation: voters have misgivings about his performance as a political chameleon
More example sentences
  • The political chameleon changes its colors according to pressure, not conscience.
  • To party cynics, she may be seen as a political chameleon, reinventing herself to charm the voters.
  • He was a brilliant careerist and opportunist, a political chameleon whose life story seems more the stuff of fiction than of any kind of conventional history.



Pronunciation: /kəmiːlɪˈɒnɪk/
Example sentences
  • Such are the eyes and soul of Christopher Doyle: chameleonic, shifting, thick and excessive, like the multifarious textures of the infinite spectrum of images he composes.
  • He's had a somewhat chameleonic career which has seen him as prog rock axe hero, fusioneer as well as a mainstream jazzer.
  • Or maybe it was the fact that she projected an aura of chameleonic malleability, in his words you could ‘take her to the ballet or a biker bar, and she would fit in completely, perfectly in either environ.’


Middle English: via Latin chamaeleon from Greek khamaileōn, from khamai 'on the ground' + leōn 'lion'.

  • A lion and a giraffe feature in the history of the lizard's name. Chameleon is derived via Latin from Greek khamaileon, from khamai ‘on the ground’ and leōn ‘lion’. So a chameleon was a ‘ground lion’. It was often spelled camelion, which sometimes got mixed up with camelopard, an old word for a giraffe. So for a time, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a camelion was also a name for the giraffe. From the 16th century people have been described as chameleons if they were fickle or continually changing their opinions.

Words that rhyme with chameleon

anthelion, Aristotelian, Aurelian, carnelian, Karelian, Mendelian, Mephistophelian, Pelion, Sahelian

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: cha|me¦leon

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