Student Dictionary

2 entries found for caterpillar.
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Main Entry: cat·er·pil·lar
Pronunciation: primarystresskat-schwa(r)-secondarystresspil-schwar
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English catyrpel "caterpillar," from an early French dialect word catepelose "caterpillar," literally, "hairy cat," from cate "female cat" and pelose "hairy," derived from Latin pilus "hair" --related to PILE
: the long wormlike larva of a butterfly or moth; also : any of various similar insect larvae (as of a sawfly)
Word History On looking at a fuzzy caterpillar you might see a resemblance to another animal. One kind of caterpillar must have reminded some people of a bear and was at one time called a bear worm and later a woolly bear. In France long ago, the fuzzy caterpillars probably made some people think of little dogs. The French word for caterpillar is chenille, which comes from a Latin word for "little dog." But our word caterpillar comes from an early French dialect word, catepelose, which is made up of two words meaning "hairy cat." Pelose, meaning "hairy," was taken from Latin pilus, "hair." This Latin word is the same root that gives us our modern English word pile, meaning "a coat or surface of short furry hairs." Since many caterpillars are covered with such a coat, the name is very fitting.
[caterpillar illustration]

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