• synonyms


  1. any tall, reedlike marsh plant of the genus Typha, especially T. latifolia, having long, sword-shaped leaves and dense, cylindrical clusters of minute brown flowers.
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Origin of cattail

First recorded in 1425–75, cattail is from the late Middle English word cattestail. See cat, tail1
Also called bulrush, reed mace.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cattail

Historical Examples

  • They may have been saying: "Already the boys are shouting, The cattail is in bloom!"

    Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs

    Alice C. Fletcher

  • In her hand was a brown "cattail," perfectly full and round.

    The Shape of Fear

    Elia W. Peattie

  • There was also much of the wild flax, of which we now obtained some ripe seed, as well as some bullrush and cattail flag.

  • Inside is a warm, soft bed made of milkweed or cattail down, the very nicest kind of a bed for the babies.

  • Nests are made of marsh vegetation (arrowhead, cattail) and float on water.

    The Breeding Birds of Kansas

    Richard F. Johnston

Word Origin and History for cattail


also cat's tail, type of plant, mid-15c., from cat (n.) + tail (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper