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See more synonyms for tabby on Thesaurus.com
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.
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  1. striped or brindled.
  2. made of or resembling tabby.
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verb (used with object), tab·bied, tab·by·ing.
  1. to give a wavy or watered appearance to, as silk.
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Origin of tabby1

1630–40; back formation from French tabis (taken as plural), Middle French (a)tabis silk cloth < Medieval Latin attābi < Arabic ʿattābī, derivative of (al-)ʿAttābīyah, quarter of Baghdad where the silk was first made, literally, the quarter of (Prince) ʿAttāb


  1. (in the southeastern U.S.) a building material composed of ground oyster shells, lime, and sand, mixed with salt water.
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Origin of tabby2

An Americanism dating back to 1765–75; said to be of West African orig.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tabby

Historical Examples

  • Is not a soft, white-breasted maltese or tabby as attractive?

    Concerning Cats

    Helen M. Winslow

  • But it's about as nigh to Joe's as 'tis to Tabby's, seems to me.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • I started as though I had seen a tabby pounce down from the rigging!

  • Ah, Tabby, what a deal of secret misery there is in the world!

  • Tabby, old maids are a public nuisance, not to say dangerous.

British Dictionary definitions for tabby


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

C17: from Old French tabis silk cloth, from Arabic al-`attabiya, literally: the quarter of (Prince) `Attab, the part of Baghdad where the fabric was first made


  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
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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
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Word Origin

C17: from Tabby, pet form of the girl's name Tabitha, probably influenced by tabby 1
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

Word Origin and History for tabby


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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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper