There are 4 main definitions of cat in English:

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cat 1

Pronunciation: /kat/


1A small domesticated carnivorous mammal with soft fur, a short snout, and retractile claws. It is widely kept as a pet or for catching mice, and many breeds have been developed.
Example sentences
  • Domestic cats may breed much more frequently, as often as 3 times a year, as they are not typically limited by nutrition or climate.
  • There is a guy in Bedfordshire who has sold the world's most expensive cat - a cross breed between a domestic cat and a feral one.
  • Pedigree dogs and mongrels performed the same overall, but pedigree cats scored marginally higher than mixed breed cats on all the tests.
1.1A wild animal of the cat family: a marbled cat See also big cat.
More example sentences
  • Twice I had come across wild mountain cats, narrowly escaping death.
  • They had seen lynx cats wild in Spain and were sure they were not mistaken.
  • His works feature a variety of cats like the snow leopard, jaguar, tiger and lion in various settings.
1.2Used in names of catlike animals of other families, e.g., ring-tailed cat.
Example sentences
  • Civet cats are not true cats, but short-haired mammals with long bodies, short legs, and tails.
  • Cane toad toxin is very effective against virtually all Australian native species that attempt to eat toads, from small frog-eating reptiles to the Quoll (Australia's native cat).
  • We're now seeing some wildlife we never saw before - ring-tailed cats, green herons, beaver.
1.3 historical short for cat-o'-nine-tails.
Example sentences
  • I'll wager you've ne'er felt the lash o' the cat.
1.4 short for catfish.
1.5 short for cathead.
1.6 short for catboat.
2 informal, chiefly North American (Particularly among jazz enthusiasts) a person, especially a man.
Example sentences
  • It's a sequel to last year's Masses, which found Spring Heel Jack collaborating with New York's most important underground jazz cats.
  • Don't you cats know this polka jazz is strictly from squaresville?
  • I also loved the sophistication and harmony of jazz, the melody and, of course, the great solos that jazz cats played.

verb (cats, catting, catted)

[with object] Nautical
Raise (an anchor) from the surface of the water to the cathead.
Example sentences
  • They catted her anchor as she went.
  • He had ordered three hands for punishment for a fault in catting the anchor.



cat and mouse

A series of cunning maneuvers designed to thwart an opponent: their elite fighters are playing cat and mouse with US troops
More example sentences
  • Fighting terrorism is a dangerous game of cat and mouse, and for the moment, it appears that the mouse has gotten a little smarter.
  • Protesters and police play cat and mouse for several hours.
  • And so begins the taunting game of cat and mouse, which puts Joe's relationship and mental health in jeopardy.

a cat may look at a king

proverb Even a person of low status or importance has rights.
Example sentences
  • Still, as they say - appropriately for the visual media - a cat may look at a king.
  • The cat is pleasantly impertinent to the king and Alice notes that a cat may look at a king, so he isn't being uncivil.
  • It is devoted to the proposition that if a cat may look at a king, a thief may win and woo a princess, with plenty of wizardry to help him.

has the cat got your tongue?

Said to someone who, when expected to speak, remains silent.
Example sentences
  • If others wanted to know what had been said, they would ask, ‘Tell us, or has the cat got your tongue?’
  • ‘What's the matter, little girl, has the cat got your tongue?’
  • A brief silence ensued and the prince continued to gaze at her, which only persuaded Christine to then ask, ‘Has the cat got your tongue?’"

let the cat out of the bag

informal Reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake.
Example sentences
  • Gavin Anderson apologises to those in the know for letting the cat out of the bag about this secret haven
  • So let the cat out of the bag: admit that what you're really up to is a satire on the state of arts funding.
  • The rather inappropriately named Defence Minister let the cat out of the bag by admitting that there isn't really a threat after all.

like a cat on a hot tin roof

informal Very agitated or anxious.
Example sentences
  • I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, walking around the house in the early hours of the morning, struggling to type because my hands are shaking in agony.
  • The jury has been out since Wednesday, so he has been like a cat on a hot tin roof here.
  • DeFrancesco runs wild over the keyboard like a cat on a hot tin roof before the orchestra recapitulates the pungent main theme.

like herding cats

Used to refer to a difficult or impossible task, typically an attempt to organize a group of people: controlling the members of this expedition is like herding cats
More example sentences
  • Trying to make sense of which way a woman will go is like herding cats.
  • Getting the British people to panic is like herding cats.
  • Viewed from the front bench, discipline is said to be like herding cats.

look like something the cat dragged in (or brought in)

informal (Of a person) look very dirty or disheveled.
Example sentences
  • They probably could earn better money elsewhere, they have their lives opened to scrutiny, then in the studio they're treated like something the cat brought in.
  • One of them says we look like something the cat brought in and Malachy has to be held back from fighting them.
  • He grinned as they entered: ‘Look what the cat brought in’.

when (or while) the cat's away, the mice will play

proverb People will naturally take advantage of the absence of someone in authority to do as they like.
Example sentences
  • However, it rings true that when the cat's away, the mice will play,’ said Dronkers.
  • He left last night, straight from work, and as you know, while the cat's away, the mice will play.
  • It's certainly a case of while the cat's away, the mice will play - what they get up to is barely legal!


Old English catt, catte, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kat and German Katze; reinforced in Middle English by forms from late Latin cattus.

  • The original Latin word for cat was feles, literally ‘she who bears young’ and also used of other animals such as polecats that were domesticated to keep down mice. This is the source of our feline (late 17th century). In the early centuries ad cattus appears in Latin. It is generally thought to be Egyptian, as this is where cats were first domesticated, but a Slavic language is another possibility. Most modern European languages used a word derived from this. It is typical of the different roles played in English by words from Latin and Germanic sources that while feline is generally linked with positive words like ‘grace’, catty (late 19th century) is an insult. Catgut (late 16th century) is typically made from sheep not cats, and may come from a joke about the caterwauling (Late Middle English), from cat and a word related to ‘wail’, noise that can be produced from the strings. Cat features in many colourful English expressions. A cat may look at a king, meaning ‘even a person of low status or importance has rights’, is recorded from the mid 16th century. If you let the cat out of the bag you reveal a secret, especially carelessly or by mistake. The French have a similar use of ‘bag’ in the phrase vider le sac, literally ‘empty the bag’, meaning ‘tell the whole story’. When the cat's away the mice will play dates from the 15th century. To put the cat among the pigeons was first recorded in 1706, and appears then to have referred to a man causing a stir by surprising a group of women. No room to swing a cat probably refers not to the animal but to a cat-o'-nine-tails, a form of whip with nine knotted cords which was formerly used to flog wrongdoers, especially at sea. Something really good might be called the cat's whiskers, the cat's pyjamas or, in North America, the cat's miaou. Like the bee's knees, these expressions were first used in the era of the ‘flappers’, the 1920s. African-Americans started calling each other cats from the middle of the 19th century, a meaning that jazz musicians and fans took up. See also whisker.

Words that rhyme with cat

at, bat, brat, chat, cravat, drat, expat, fat, flat, frat, gat, gnat, hat, hereat, high-hat, howzat, lat, mat, matt, matte, Montserrat, Nat, outsat, pat, pit-a-pat, plait, plat, prat, Rabat, rat, rat-tat, Sadat, sat, scat, Sebat, shabbat, shat, skat, slat, spat, splat, sprat, stat, Surat, tat, that, thereat, tit-for-tat, vat, whereat
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There are 4 main definitions of cat in English:

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cat 2

Pronunciation: /kat/


Short for catalytic converter.
Example sentences
  • It also cleans up the engine's emissions, which means smaller cats are needed, and the manufacturer claims that these help to improve low-rev throttle response.
  • A clogged cat prevents exhaust gases from flowing smoothly out of the engine; thus, it won't be able to clean them properly.
  • So the obvious key to reducing pollutants is to heat the cat faster.
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There are 4 main definitions of cat in English:

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cat 3

Pronunciation: /kat/


Short for catamaran.
Example sentences
  • Wright said it would be possible to refit the fast cats, as suggested by Kvaerner Masa Marine.
  • BC Ferries has been trying to unload the three fast cats ever since the boats were built.
  • The fast cats were on their way from BC Ferries' Deas Dock to Canada Place, where they will be sold on Monday.
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There are 4 main definitions of cat in English:

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Pronunciation: /kat/


1Clear air turbulence.
2Computer-assisted (or -aided) testing.
3 Medicine Computerized axial tomography: [as adjective]: a CAT scan
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