The panther chameleon was first described by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1829. Its generic name (Furcifer) is derived from the Latin root furci meaning "forked" and refers to the shape of the animal's feet. The specific name pardalis refers to the animals' markings, as it is Latin for "leopard" or "spotted like a panther". The English word chameleon (also chamaeleon) derives from Latin chamaeleō, a borrowing of the Ancient Greek χαμαιλέων (khamailéōn), a compound of χαμαί (khamaí) "on the ground" and λέων (léōn) "lion". The Greek word is a calque translating the Akkadian nēš qaqqari, "ground lion". This lends to the common English name of "panther chameleon".