Dictionary.com

cat's-paw

or cats·paw

[ kats-paw ]
/ ˈkætsˌpɔ /
Save This Word!

noun
a person used to serve the purposes of another; tool.
Nautical.
  1. a hitch made in the bight of a rope so that two eyes are formed to hold the hook of one block of a tackle.
  2. a light breeze that ruffles the surface of the water over a comparatively small area.
  3. the small area ruffled by such a breeze.
QUIZ
QUIZ YOURSELF ON "WAS" VS. "WERE"!
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of cat's-paw

First recorded in 1760–70; in allusion to the fable Le Singe et le Chat “The Monkey and the Cat,” by Jean de La Fontaine, in which the monkey, trying to save its own paw, uses the paw of a cat to retrieve roasted chestnuts out of a fire
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use cat's-paw in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cat's-paw

cat's-paw

noun
a person used by another as a tool; dupe
nautical a hitch in the form of two loops, or eyes, in the bight of a line, used for attaching it to a hook
a pattern of ripples on the surface of water caused by a light wind

Word Origin for cat's-paw

(sense 1) C18: so called from the tale of the monkey who used a cat's paw to draw chestnuts out of a fire
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's-paw

cat's paw

A dupe or tool for another, a sucker, as in You always try to make a cat's paw of me, but I refuse to do any more of your work. This term alludes to a very old tale about a monkey that persuades a cat to pull chestnuts out of the fire so as to avoid burning its own paws. The story dates from the 16th century and versions of it (some with a dog) exist in many languages.

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