This is in the spirit of the What is a Word™/Phrase™ series started by JLee with a special brand of Phrase™ and Word™ puzzles.

If a word conforms to a certain rule, I call it a Chameleon Word™. Use the following examples to find the rule:

Chameleon Words ™ Not Chameleon Words ™
Ours Theirs
Coin Bill
Bite Nibble
Bras Knickers
Cent Dollar
Trombone Trumpet
Peter Paul
Singe Burn

CSV version:

Chameleon Words ™, Not Chameleon Words 
Ours, Theirs 
Coin, Bill
Bite, Nibble
Bras, Knickers
Cent, Dollar
Trombone, Trumpet
Peter, Paul
Singe, Burn
  • $\begingroup$ Mon dieu! The BITE and PETER words are pretty much in line with the Kit-Ginevra hunour we've learned to love. :) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Oct 6, 2017 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MOehm And this is without mentioning KNICKERS (niqueur) and BURN (burne)... $\endgroup$
    – xhienne
    Oct 6, 2017 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


A Chameleon Word is

a word that is valid (and has different definitions) in both French and English.


The French translations are:
ours = bear
coin = corner
bite = slang for male reproductive organ
bras = arms
cent = hundred
trombone = paperclip
peter = to fart
singe = monkey

It's called a Chameleon Word because

its definition can change based on its environment, similar to a chameleon's skin color.

  • $\begingroup$ That was my first impression too, but DOLLAR is a perfectly valid French noun and PAUL is a French firstname. Then I was about to propose "French words that mean something completely different in English" but TROMBONE and CENT don't fit the definition either. $\endgroup$
    – xhienne
    Oct 6, 2017 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ There is no language tag for this puzzle, for this answer to be valid. Is it not ? $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2017 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I'm not sure I understand why "French words that mean something completely different in English" doesn't work? It sure seems to me that trombone and cent fit $\endgroup$
    – ColdFrog
    Oct 6, 2017 at 20:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ColdFrog We use the exact same words in French for TROMBONE (the instrument) and CENT (the money). To my knowledge, despite their common spelling, the other six chameleon words have no common meaning in French and in English. $\endgroup$
    – xhienne
    Oct 6, 2017 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Ohhhhhh, I see - my assumption was that the listed translations were the only one :P $\endgroup$
    – ColdFrog
    Oct 6, 2017 at 20:54

A Chameleon Word is

one that has one or more homophones (words that sound the same when pronounced, but have different spellings), whereas their counterparts do not.

That Is,

Ours - hours
Coin - quoin
Bite - byte
Trombone - to be explored...
Singe - synge
Bras - Brass
Cent - Scent
Peter - to be explored...

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What about Paul/pall? $\endgroup$
    – benzene
    Oct 6, 2017 at 18:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And theres/theirs? $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2017 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ Ah too easy for the brilliant minds here! $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2017 at 20:55

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