1. a small domesticated carnivore, Felis domestica or F. catus, bred in a number of varieties.
  2. any of several carnivores of the family Felidae, as the lion, tiger, leopard or jaguar, etc.
  3. Slang.
    1. a person, especially a man.
    2. a devotee of jazz.
  4. a woman given to spiteful or malicious gossip.
  5. the fur of the domestic cat.
  6. a cat-o’-nine-tails.
  7. Games.
    1. Chiefly British.the tapering piece of wood used in the game of tipcat.
    2. Chiefly British.the game itself.
    3. four old cat, one old cat, three old cat, two old cat.
  8. a catboat.
  9. a catamaran.
  10. a catfish.
  11. Nautical. a tackle used in hoisting an anchor to the cathead.
  12. a double tripod having six legs but resting on only three no matter how it is set down, usually used before or over a fire.
  13. Navy Informal. catapult(def 2).
  14. (in medieval warfare) a movable shelter for providing protection when approaching a fortification.

verb (used with object), cat·ted, cat·ting.

  1. to flog with a cat-o’-nine-tails.
  2. Nautical. to hoist (an anchor) and secure to a cathead.

verb (used without object), cat·ted, cat·ting.

  1. British Slang. to vomit.

Verb Phrases

  1. cat around, Slang.
    1. to spend one’s time aimlessly or idly.
    2. to seek sexual activity indiscriminately; tomcat.

  1. bell the cat, to attempt something formidable or dangerous.
  2. let the cat out of the bag, to divulge a secret, especially inadvertently or carelessly: He let the cat out of the bag, and the surprise party wasn’t a surprise after all.


  1. a Caterpillar tractor.

  1. clear-air turbulence.
  2. Medicine/Medical. computerized axial tomography.

  1. a prefix meaning “down,” “against,” “back,” occurring originally in loanwords from Greek (cataclysm; catalog; catalepsy); on this model, used in the formation of other compound words (catagenesis; cataphyll).

  1. catalog; catalogue.
  2. catechism.


  1. Also called: domestic cat a small domesticated feline mammal, Felis catus (or domesticus), having thick soft fur and occurring in many breeds in which the colour of the fur varies greatly: kept as a pet or to catch rats and mice
  2. Also called: big cat any of the larger felines, such as a lion or tiger
  3. any wild feline mammal of the genus Felis, such as the lynx or serval, resembling the domestic catRelated adjective: feline
  4. old-fashioned a woman who gossips maliciously
  5. slang a man; guy
  6. nautical a heavy tackle for hoisting an anchor to the cathead
  7. a short sharp-ended piece of wood used in the game of tipcat
  8. short for catboat
  9. informal short for Caterpillar
  10. short for cat-o’-nine-tails
  11. a bag of cats Irish informal a bad-tempered personshe’s a real bag of cats this morning
  12. fight like Kilkenny cats to fight until both parties are destroyed
  13. let the cat out of the bag to disclose a secret, often by mistake
  14. like a cat on a hot tin roof or like a cat on hot bricks in an uneasy or agitated state
  15. like cat and dog quarrelling savagely
  16. look like something the cat brought in to appear dishevelled or bedraggled
  17. not a cat in hell’s chance no chance at all
  18. not have room to swing a cat to have very little space
  19. play cat and mouse to play with a person or animal in a cruel or teasing way, esp before a final act of cruelty or unkindness
  20. put the cat among the pigeons to introduce some violently disturbing new element
  21. rain cats and dogs to rain very heavily

verb cats, catting or catted

  1. (tr) to flog with a cat-o’-nine-tails
  2. (tr) nautical to hoist (an anchor) to the cathead
  3. (intr) a slang word for vomit


  1. informal short for catamaran (def. 1)


    1. short for catalytic converter
    2. (as modifier)a cat car


  1. short for catalytic a cat cracker

abbreviation for

  1. computer-aided teaching
  2. computer-assisted trading

abbreviation for

  1. catalogue
  2. catamaran


  1. down; downwards; lower in positioncatadromous; cataphyll
  2. indicating reversal, opposition, degeneration, etccataplasia; catatonia

Old English catt (c.700), from West Germanic (c.400-450), from Proto-Germanic *kattuz (cf. Old Frisian katte, Old Norse köttr, Dutch kat, Old High German kazza, German Katze), from Late Latin cattus.

The near-universal European word now, it appeared in Europe as Latin catta (Martial, c.75 C.E.), Byzantine Greek katta (c.350) and was in general use on the continent by c.700, replacing Latin feles. Probably ultimately Afro-Asiatic (cf. Nubian kadis, Berber kadiska, both meaning “cat”). Arabic qitt “tomcat” may be from the same source. Cats were domestic in Egypt from c.2000 B.C.E., but not a familiar household animal to classical Greeks and Romans. The nine lives have been proverbial since at least 1560s.

The Late Latin word also is the source of Old Irish and Gaelic cat, Welsh kath, Breton kaz, Italian gatto, Spanish gato, French chat (12c.). Independent, but ultimately from the same source are words in the Slavic group: Old Church Slavonic kotuka, kotel’a, Bulgarian kotka, Russian koška, Polish kot, along with Lithuanian kate and non-Indo-European Finnish katti, which is from Lithuanian.

Extended to lions, tigers, etc. c.1600. As a term of contempt for a woman, from early 13c. Slang sense of “prostitute” is from at least c.1400. Slang sense of “fellow, guy,” is from 1920, originally in U.S. Black English; narrower sense of “jazz enthusiast” is recorded from 1931.

Cat’s paw (1769, but cat’s foot in the same sense, 1590s) refers to old folk tale in which the monkey tricks the cat into pawing chestnuts from a fire; the monkey gets the nuts, the cat gets a burnt paw. Cat bath “hurried or partial cleaning” is from 1953. Cat burglar is from 1907, so called for stealth. Cat-witted “small-minded, obstinate, and spiteful” (1670s) deserved to survive. For Cat’s meow, cat’s pajamas, see bee’s knees.

1975, medical acronym for computerized axial tomography or something like it. Related: CAT scan.

word-forming element from Latinized form of Greek kata-, before vowels kat-, from kata “down from, down to.” Its principal sense is “down,” but occasionally it has senses of “against” (catapult)or “wrongly” (catachresis). Also sometimes used as an intensive or with a sense of completion of action (catalogue). Very active in ancient Greek, this prefix is found in English mostly in words borrowed through Latin after c.1500.


  1. computerized axial tomography


  1. Down:catabolism.
  2. Reverse; backward; degenerative:cataplasia.

In addition to the idioms beginning with cat

  • cat got one’s tongue

also see:

  • alley cat
  • bell the cat
  • curiosity killed the cat
  • fat cat
  • grin like a Cheshire cat
  • let the cat out of the bag
  • like a cat on a hot brick
  • look like something the cat dragged in
  • look like the cat that ate the canary
  • more than one way to skin a cat
  • not enough room to swing a cat
  • play cat and mouse
  • rain cats and dogs
  • when the cat’s away

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