Sometimes it’s fun to look up words so very common that one never really pauses to think about them. You never know what you’re going to find! So as one of my cats stared at me as I was contemplating this week’s Word of the Week, I chuckled and said, “Okay, sure, why not? Let’s look up cat.” And I did. 😉
There are times when a word’s history really surprises me. And times, like this, when what surprises me is how universal a word is! Cat (and its various forms) is nearly universal word in European languages today. Our English spelling and pronunciation comes from the Proto-Germanic (that just means “first Germanic”) kattuz. Kattuz has in turn influenced many, many other words for domestic felines throughout Europe, and did itself come from Late Latin cattus. In English, it dates alllll the way back to 700 (!!!!), when the English was Old but the cats were still cats. 😉
That Late Latin word has informed pretty much all the European languages that the German didn’t directly influence, which means that nearly every language in the Western world has a very similar world for our small feline friends–and in fact, replaced an earlier Latin word, feles, which is also familiar to us as the scientific name. The Late Latin version was borrowed from Greek, and the Greek was borrowed from the Arabic qitt. Cats have been domestic animals in Egypt since 2,000 BC, though the Greeks and Romans didn’t actually have them as pets.
Cats have had their proverbial nine lives since about 1560. The word has been applied to big cats–lions, tigers, etc–by about 1600.
And just a fun little tidbit I learned from a documentary called The Lion in Your Living Room…did you know that Vikings were not only cat lovers, but they favored orange cats? So much, in fact, that one can trace Viking trade routes by the orange cat population in different areas! How fun is that?
Are you a cat person? A dog person? Both?