[ kat ]
See synonyms for cat on
  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, such as the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, etc.

  1. Older Slang.

    • a person, especially a man: I'll admit that I'm not the hippest cat in town but even I know that show.

    • a devotee of jazz: That cat's got a great ear, but he can't sing or play himself.

  2. a woman given to spiteful or malicious gossip.

  3. Games.

  4. Obsolete. the fur of the domestic cat.

  5. Nautical. a tackle used in hoisting an anchor to the cathead, a projecting timber or metal beam where the anchor is secured.

  6. 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.

  7. Navy Informal. catapult (def. 2).

  8. (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, a projecting timber or metal beam where the anchor is secured.

verb (used without object),cat·ted, cat·ting.
  1. British Slang. to vomit.

Verb Phrases
  1. cat around, Slang.

    • to seek sexual activity indiscriminately: Many of these celebrities have catted around despite being married.

    • to spend one's time aimlessly or idly: We're going out to the country to hunt, explore, and just cat around a bit.

Idioms about cat

  1. bell the cat, to attempt something formidable or dangerous: The question at the moment is who will bell the cat, since nobody on the board is willing to tell the CEO she's fired.

  2. cat got your tongue?, (used to ask why someone is not speaking): You've been awfully quiet—cat got your tongue?

  1. curiosity killed the cat. curiosity (def. 5).

  2. enough to make a cat laugh, very funny, outrageous, or absurd: Hearing these politicians talk about the lives of everyday people is enough to make a cat laugh.

  3. fight like cats and dogs. fight (def. 18).

  4. 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.

  5. look like something the cat dragged in, to look tired, unkempt, ugly, etc.: You look like something the cat dragged in—go have a shower and a nap.

  6. look what the cat dragged in, Often Facetious. (used to acknowledge someone's arrival while implying that they look bad or are unwelcome): Darn it, he's here. Look what the cat dragged in!

  7. rain cats and dogs. rain (def. 13).

  8. the cat that ate / swallowed / got the canary, someone who is self-satisfied, proud, or pleased: She won the contest by a hair and walked around like the cat that ate the canary for the rest of the month.

Origin of cat

First recorded before 900; Middle English cat, catte, Old English catt (masculine), catte (feminine); cognate with Old Frisian, Middle Dutch katte, Old High German kazza, Old Norse kǫttr; akin to Late Latin cattus, catta (first recorded in the 4th century, presumably with the introduction of domestic cats); further origin uncertain

word story For cat

Sometimes the most common words have the rarest, most unusual stories, and nowhere is this clearer than with household pets. The origins of both cat and dog alike have long puzzled linguists, but for opposite reasons: while dog has no known relatives outside English, cat almost has too many! Cat, from Old English catt, has close cognates in other Germanic languages such as German and Norwegian, and the word is traditionally considered to be either an early borrowing of or related to Late Latin cattus, replacing earlier Latin fēlēs. While cattus may be the ultimate source of many other Indo-European words for “cat,” from Irish cat to Russian kot, the source of cattus itself remains unclear. A popular proposal links cattus to an Afro-Asiatic language because of the uncanny resemblance to Arabic qiṭṭ and Syriac qaṭṭa. If valid, cattus would be an example of a wanderwort, a word spread across distantly related and unrelated languages through trade. Alternatively, cat has been tentatively connected to a generic Uralic term for a furry animal, such as a stoat. One final hypothesis is that cat is ultimately based on an imitation of a cat's hiss, which would explain why similar words for the same animal appear in multiple language families. If true, this would not be the only word for “cat” that resembles feline noises; compare Egyptian mjw and Mandarin Chinese māo, which resemble English meow.

Other definitions for Cat (2 of 4)

[ kat ]

  1. a Caterpillar tractor.

Other definitions for CAT (3 of 4)


  1. clear-air turbulence.

  2. Medicine/Medical. computerized axial tomography.

Other definitions for cat. (4 of 4)


  1. catalog; catalogue.

  2. catechism. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use cat in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cat (1 of 5)


/ (kæt) /

  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

  1. any wild feline mammal of the genus Felis, such as the lynx or serval, resembling the domestic cat: Related adjective: feline

  2. old-fashioned a woman who gossips maliciously

  3. slang a man; guy

  4. nautical a heavy tackle for hoisting an anchor to the cathead

  5. a short sharp-ended piece of wood used in the game of tipcat

  6. short for catboat

  7. informal short for Caterpillar

  8. a bag of cats Irish informal a bad-tempered person: she's a real bag of cats this morning

  9. fight like Kilkenny cats to fight until both parties are destroyed

  10. let the cat out of the bag to disclose a secret, often by mistake

  11. like a cat on a hot tin roof or like a cat on hot bricks in an uneasy or agitated state

  12. like cat and dog quarrelling savagely

  13. look like something the cat brought in to appear dishevelled or bedraggled

  14. not a cat in hell's chance no chance at all

  15. not have room to swing a cat to have very little space

  16. 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

  17. put the cat among the pigeons to introduce some violently disturbing new element

  18. rain cats and dogs to rain very heavily

verbcats, catting or catted
  1. (tr) to flog with a cat-o'-nine-tails

  2. (tr) nautical to hoist (an anchor) to the cathead

  1. (intr) a slang word for vomit

Origin of cat

Old English catte, from Latin cattus; related to Old Norse köttr, Old High German kazza, Old French chat, Russian kot

Derived forms of cat

  • catlike, adjective
  • cattish, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for cat (2 of 5)


/ (kæt) /

  1. informal short for catamaran (def. 1)

British Dictionary definitions for cat (3 of 5)


/ (kæt) /

  1. short for catalytic a cat cracker

British Dictionary definitions for CAT (4 of 5)


abbreviation for
  1. computer-aided teaching

  2. computer-assisted trading

British Dictionary definitions for cat. (5 of 5)


abbreviation for
  1. catalogue

  2. catamaran

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with cat


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

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.