Definition of tadpole in US English:



  • The tailed aquatic larva of an amphibian (frog, toad, newt, or salamander), breathing through gills and lacking legs until the later stages of its development.

    • ‘One of the characteristics of amphibians is metamorphosis; when the larva or tadpole living in water and breathing with gills develops into an adult, it leaves the aquatic environment and breathes with lungs like a land animal.’
    • ‘Most tadpoles are suspension feeders, filtering out tiny particles while continuously pumping water.’
    • ‘They will also prey on crayfish, frogs, tadpoles, and other aquatic dwellers.’
    • ‘He'd always bring a jar of the stuff in and we'd have lessons where we'd document the life of the frog by watching the frog spawn hatch and metamorphose from tadpoles to frogs.’
    • ‘Inside the pouch, the tadpoles live on the yolk leftover from their hatching.’
    • ‘As the tadpoles become frogs, the gills initially used to breathe are replaced with lungs.’
    • ‘Toad tadpoles appear to be distasteful to many predators, and, perhaps as a result of this, are much more often to be seen in open water than those of the common frog.’
    • ‘In amphibian tadpoles, however, the function of the axial muscles appear to be for lateral bending alone.’
    • ‘Just before metamorphosis, the tadpoles weigh only a fraction of an ounce.’
    • ‘Frogs were not symbols of death but, on the contrary, of rebirth and renewal, because of its remarkable metamorphosis of egg into tadpole and from tadpole into frog.’
    • ‘In several species, a parent remains with the non-feeding tadpoles at the nest.’
    • ‘We have observed that green frog tadpoles react less strongly to predators at very low resource levels.’
    • ‘The cells divide and change until they have a head and short tail, like tadpoles.’
    • ‘Young amphibians, like the larval frog or tadpole pictured here, spend their early years in the water, breathing through gills in the side of their head in much the same way as fish do.’
    • ‘Biologists now find that slightly elevated UV exposure reduces the chance that tadpoles will become frogs.’
    • ‘Early in its development a tadpole breathes with gills.’
    • ‘Whooping crane young are fed dragonfly larvae, insects and tadpoles, Johns said.’
    • ‘These species tend to have shorter larval periods on average when compared to tadpoles that develop in more permanent ponds.’
    • ‘Many familiar animals have a larval form: caterpillars turn into butterflies, and tadpoles into frogs.’
    • ‘The young snakes prey on recently hatched steelhead trout and chinook salmon and on the tadpoles of yellow-legged frogs.’


Late 15th century: from Old English tāda ‘toad’ + poll (probably because the tadpole seems to consist of a large head and a tail in its early development stage).