noun, plural tab·bies.

  1. a cat with a striped or brindled coat.
  2. a domestic cat, especially a female one.
  3. a spinster.
  4. a spiteful female gossip or tattler.
  5. plain weave.
  6. a watered silk fabric, or any other watered material, as moreen.


  1. striped or brindled.
  2. made of or resembling tabby.

verb (used with object), tab·bied, tab·by·ing.

  1. to give a wavy or watered appearance to, as silk.


  1. (in the southeastern U.S.) a building material composed of ground oyster shells, lime, and sand, mixed with salt water.


  1. a fabric with a watered pattern, esp silk or taffeta


  1. (esp of cats) brindled with dark stripes or wavy markings on a lighter background
  2. having a wavy or striped pattern, particularly in colours of grey and brown

noun plural -bies

  1. a tabby cat
  2. any female domestic cat
  3. British informal a gossiping old woman
  4. Australian slang any girl or woman

n.1630s, “striped silk taffeta,” from French tabis “a rich, watered silk (originally striped),” from Middle French atabis (14c.), from Arabic ‘attabiya, from ‘Attabiy, a neighborhood of Baghdad where such cloth was first made, named for prince ‘Attab of the Omayyad dynasty. Tabby cat, one with a striped coat, is attested from 1690s; shortened form tabby first attested 1774. Sense of “female cat” (1826) may be influenced by the fem. proper name Tabby, a pet form of Tabitha, which was used in late 18c. as slang for “difficult old woman.”

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