The aquatic larva of a frog or toad, having gills, a long, laterally compressed tail, and in early stages, no limbs. During metamorphosis of a tadpole into an adult, legs and lungs develop, and the tail gradually disappears. Also called polliwog .
Origin of tadpole
Middle English taddepol tadde, tode toad
; see toad
. pol head
; see poll
. Word History:
The word tadpole,
which first appears in English in the 1400s, is an old compound word whose meaning is no longer transparent. Tad
is a variant of the word toad,
is simply an alternative spelling of poll,
meaning “head.” Tadpole
thus means “a toad that is all head,” so to speak. Nowadays, the original meaning of the word poll,
“head,” is most prominent in poll tax,
“a tax consisting of a fixed amount and levied on all individuals,” a kind of tax that also often used to be called a head tax.
(In modern times, poll taxes are most often levied on adults eligible to vote.) The most common senses of poll
today are probably “a survey of public opinion” and “the place where votes are cast.” The word probably developed these senses at least partly through the notion of the head as the most prominent part of each individual in a crowd—the part that could be counted. A similar notion is found in the phrase “a head of cattle.”
from top to bottom:
egg and three stages of a tadpole metamorphosing into a frog
- A young toad or frog in its larval stage of development that lives in water, has a tail and no legs, and, like a fish, breathes through gills.
From Middle English, tad (“toad") and poll (“head").