Definition of chameleon in English:


(British chamaeleon)


  • 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 color.

    • ‘It lacked the light brown fur, however, and instead owned a soft, fleshy skin with the abilities of a chameleon.’
    • ‘Everyone in Canada will now have the uncanny ability of the chameleon.’
    • ‘We all understand the ability of the chameleon to change its colours to suit its environment.’
    • ‘Remarkably, the loss of the tongue protractors in chameleons has not affected the external feeding kinematics.’
    • ‘This is similar in ways to the chameleon, a lizard which can alter the colour of its skin.’
    • ‘In the evening the Mekong always seemed to come alive, changing its colour like a chameleon, camouflaging itself against the darkening sky until it swallowed the sun.’
    • ‘These and a whole list of other questions far longer than a chameleon's telescopic tongue, still need to be answered.’
    • ‘According to Anderson, the ability of chameleons to change color stems from special cells called chromatophores found in the upper layers of their skin.’
    • ‘This is the last view myriad insects have in life before being swamped by a long, sticky tongue and sucked back into the chameleon's mouth.’
    • ‘Similarly, some modern ectotherms, chameleons for example, have an erect posture.’
    • ‘It is as if to survive, it has had to change names, like a chameleon changing colours.’
    • ‘There are many other snakes of all different sizes, as well as chameleons, geckos, lizards, skinks, iguanas, spiders and huge tortoises.’
    • ‘Toys made of rubber in the shape of snakes, lizards, chameleons, scorpions and crabs are selling like hot cakes.’
    • ‘Chameleons such as this male Parson's chameleon from Madagascar change their skin color to hide and to communicate.’
    • ‘Their eyes move independently of each other, like those of a chameleon, and their bodies are covered by bony plates, similar to those of seahorses.’
    • ‘The team that saw France bestride the football world for the first time ever had more colours than a chameleon and, ultimately, did more for race relations than any number of government initiatives.’
    • ‘A chameleon was shifting to match the kaleidoscope of colour given off by the lights of a gramophone record store.’
    • ‘The chameleon has the ability to bring long life or death, fecundity or barrenness, depending on its color.’
    • ‘I watch the sky change its colour like a chameleon.’
    • ‘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. 1.1North American An anole.
      • ‘They are often referred to as American chameleons, although they are unrelated to chameleons.’
      • ‘In addition to iguanas, the Iguania include agamids, chameleons and a few lesser known groups.’
      • ‘We then started studying green anoles (otherwise known as American chameleons), the creatures that live in the grass that we planted.’
      • ‘They have been replaced by the corresponding segments of the pigment of American chameleon.’
      • ‘The following are answers to several questions I have been asked recently about a common lizard of the Southeast, called green anoles by some people and American chameleons by others.’
      • ‘Most North American lizards belong to this family, including the collared lizards, the utas, the swifts, the so-called horned toads, or horned lizards, and the American chameleon, or anole (not a true chameleon).’
      • ‘Among the saurian the iguanas can be pointed out, as well as the American chameleons and varanus.’
      • ‘Contrary to popular belief, the American chameleon does not assume the color of its surroundings.’
      • ‘It happened because I was married to an American chameleon (I must mention here that American chameleons are not true chameleons - they look much the same but lack some of our more amazing abilities).’
      • ‘Green anoles are often called American chameleons because of their ability to change color from bright green to brown to grey.’
      • ‘There are no native American chameleons, although there are many pet chameleons.’
      • ‘The American chameleon, or anole, is not a true chameleon, but a small lizard of the iguana family, found in the SE United States and noted for its color changes.’
      • ‘Turtles, crayfish, snails, fish, salamanders, American chameleons, newts, insects, bacteria, and algae all can be successfully raised in the River Tank, but questions remain as to which ones can coexist, and for how long, before being eaten by another inhabitant.’
      • ‘This is a common characteristic between American chameleons and those of Europe and Africa.’
      • ‘In the pure-cone American chameleon retina, all visual opsins including rod opsin are expressed.’
      • ‘If the ventral curvature of tail is real, then that, in concert with its extremely narrow scaupulae, suggests that a more appropriate functional analog would be found in arboreal chameleons.’
    2. 1.2A person who changes their opinions or behavior according to the situation.
      • ‘She describes herself as a nurse chameleon who has not changed her colors - she is just wearing them in a different medium.’
      • ‘You know, the wily old chameleon could still come out ahead.’
      • ‘We would have to agree with this article, which dubs these guys "musical chameleons".’
      • ‘The most brilliant move by the director was the casting of artistic chameleon and rock-and-roll space oddity David Bowie.’
      • ‘On his fifth album, Harper plays the role of musical chameleon, shifting and defying musical categorization.’
      • ‘The strange thing about abusers is that they're like some kind of social chameleon.’
      • ‘Listeners seemed divided over whether Skaggs or musical chameleon Elvis Costello stole Thursday's show.’
      • ‘I was the most extreme kind of musical chameleon.’
      • ‘The real surprise would be if the post-modern chameleon made two albums in a row that sounded alike.’
      • ‘It was impossible not to like this energetic chameleon, this part salesman, part bit actor and part seducer.’
      • ‘Look at an actor who never ceases to amaze in his breathe of characters and you'll know she is not the only fashion chameleon around.’
      • ‘Never transforming his image significantly, yet constantly changing roles like a chameleon.’
      • ‘Bowie remains the quintessential song-and-dance man, effortlessly charming and elegant, and as ever, a shameless karma chameleon.’


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