by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
English is a fascinating language that has incorporated and adapted words from many other languages. Here is a selection of words associated with cats; there are many more, some no longer in use and others regularly used.
CAT – From the Old English catt or catte from Latin cattus, originally related to Old Norse köttr, Old High German kazza, Old French chat, Russian kot.
FELINE – Defining the genetic cat family – From Latin felinus, from feles meaning ‘cat’.
KITTEN – from Old Northern French caton; probably influenced by Middle English kiteling.
CATLING – early English name for kitten – now obsolete.
KITTY – in the game faro the bank is called the Tiger; gamblers refer to this as ‘kitty’, a small version of a large cat, similar to kitten.
PUSSY – Possibly from Middle/Low German pūskatte or Dutch Poes, both meaning ‘cat’.
ALLEY CAT – originally in England a stray cat that lived in a town (i.e. in the streets or alleys), later meaning is a more promiscuous one based on the women of easy virtue who frequented the alleys.
MAGGIE – a non-pedigree cat, possibly from the prostitutes who were referred to as Maggies, ,short for Margaret.
MOGGIE – originally the name for ‘mouse’; cats were called moggie-catchers, later shortened to moggie; alternatively an alternative word to Maggie.
QUEEN OR QUEAN – female cat, usually entire – an impudent, disrectful woman, whore, from Old English cwene; related to Old Saxon, Old High German quena, Gothic qino, Old Norse kona, Greek gunē woman
MOLLY – a female cat, usually one that has been spayed – a woman or girl of low status, version of Mary.
GRIMALKIN or Greymalkin/Graymalkin – old female cat, often grumpy – from grey/gray colour plus “malkin”, an archaic term with several meanings (a cat, a low class woman, a weakling, a mop or a name) derived from a hypocoristic form of the female name Maud.
TOM – male cat, usually entire (not neutered) – short for Thomas, generally considered a common or ordinary person, also possibly from 18th century English novel called “The Life and Adventures of a Cat” in which the narrator was a promiscuous feline named Tom, who always got the lady cats.
GIB – neutered male cat, Middle English Gibbe, short for Gilbert; also “Gilbert” is an Old French name of Germanic (Frankish) origin, derived from gisil ‘pledge’ + berht ‘bright, famous’.
CLOWDER Clutter or Crowd – a group of cats – from Middle English Clodder meaning ‘clotted mass’ or ‘huddle’, or earlier from 15th Century ‘clutter’ for ‘crowd’, or ‘cluster’
GLARING – a group of cats that are uncertain about each other – unknown origin.
DOWT or Destruction – a group of wild cats – unknown origin.
And for the people who either love or hate them:
Ailurophile – One who loves cats – from Greek Ailuros meaning ‘cat’.
Felinophobe – One who is afraid of or hates cats – from Feline
Ailurophobe – One who is afraid of or hates cats – from Greek Ailuros meaning ‘Cat’