Fun Etymology Tuesday – Cat

Yet another Tuesday – yet another animal-related word!

Last week, we talked about dog, so it really only makes sense to talk about its ancient enemy (though not always) the cat this week!

Cat comes from Old English cat, from Proto-Germanic *kattuz, from Late Latin cattus. So far so good.

Then, it gets tricky.

The word for this domesticated animal is now nearly universal in the European languages, first appearing in Europe as the Latin word catta. Later, we also find the Byzantine Greek word katta (from around 350) and by c. 700, it was in general use on the continent.

So, what’s the problem, you ask?

Well, though almost all European languages have it and we know that it came to these languages through Latin and/or Greek… then we hit a wall.

We don’t know where it came from originally! We do know that Latin and Greek have it by the 1st century and that most modern languages which have it have had it for as long back as their records go.

The likely source is often pointed out as Egypt. It makes sense: the cat was first domesticated in Egypt (as early as 2000 B.C.), so guessing that the name comes from there is not unreasonable. Yet, early mentions of the word also indicate that it might be Slavonic or even Germanic in origin.

So, like with dog, we simply don’t really know! But here, have a picture of a cat as a treat!

shallow focus photography of white and brown cat

(I know you got my supercute dog last week, but, sorry, I don’t have any cats. Hope the picture will do anyway!)

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