Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cat n.1

[lit. and fig. uses of SE cat]

1. uses based on the identification of the cat with femininity.

(a) [15C–18C; 1940s+] (later use is US black) a prostitute.

(b) attrib. use of sense 1a.

(c) [17C+] a woman, esp. a spiteful and malicious one; thus old cat, an unpleasant, gossiping old woman.

(d) attrib. use of sense 1c .

(e) [18C+] a gossip.

(f) [late 19C+] a sexually attractive woman; in weak use, a girlfriend.

(g) [1970s+] (US gay) a lesbian.

2. uses based on cat’s fur.

(a) [late 17C+] the female pubic hair and genitals.

(b) [mid-19C] a ladies’ muff; thus free a cat, to steal a muff.

3. based on other feline characteristics, e.g. quietness, disloyalty.

(a) [1900s] (US Und.) one who researches potential robberies, plans them and poss. works as a lookout.

(b) [1920s–40s] (US prison) an informer.

(c) [1950s] (Aus. Und.) a ‘cat’ burglar.

(d) [2000s] a narcotics user.

4. [1920s–30s] an animal other than a cat.

5. [1950s+] (Aus./UK prison) a passive male homosexual; thus cats’ gaol, a prison where the majority of inmates are homosexual/transsexual; cats’ yard, a segregated area of the prison set aside for homosexuals or otherwise vulnerable prisoners [may also be abbr. SE catamite, a boy kept for homosexual purposes; but note pussy n. (10)].

In compounds

cat bar (n.) (also cat’s bar)

[1950s–80s] (N.Z.) a bar set aside for women and their escorts.

cat fight (n.)

[mid-19C+] a fight between two (or more) women.

cat fit (n.)

[late 19C-1910s] (US) an attack of hysteria, usu. by a woman.

cat flat (n.)

[1940s] (US Und.) a brothel.

cat-house (n.)

see separate entry.

cat-lamb (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) an ageing, worn-out prostitute.

cat-lapper (n.)

[1960s] (US) a (lesbian) cunnilinguist.

cat o’mountain (n.) [SE catamount, a cougar or panther]

[17C] a high-spirited whore or promiscuous woman.

cat party (n.) (also cats’ party)

[late 19C+] a party consisting of women only.

cat-scrap (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a drunken fighting woman.

cat shop (n.) (also cats’ nest) [shop n.1 (1)]

[1930s–50s] (US) a brothel.

cat wagon (n.) [found in many US rural areas before the anti-‘white slavery’ legislation of 1910; the women travelled and worked from a horse-drawn covered wagon, following the cattle trails or visiting cowboys out on the range] (US)

1. [19C–1960s] a travelling brothel.

2. [1970s] a van used to take prostitutes to prison.

In phrases

cat on a testy dodge (n.) [tester n.1 (1) + dodge n. (1)]

[late 19C] a genteel female beggar who asks for money at people’s houses, often backing her request with a (fake) testimonial from a charity.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

catish (adj.) [the popular idea of the sinuously elegant feline]

[19C] (US) elegant, stylish .

In compounds


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

catface (n.) (also cat’s face) [fanciful resemblance. Note timber jargon catface, a mark in a piece of lumber-wood]

[1950s–70s] (US) a wrinkle in one’s clothing.


see separate entries.

cat-fit (n.) (also catnip-fit) [reverse anthropomorphism]

[1900s–30s] (US) a tantrum.

catflap (n.)

1. weak or diluted spirits [sense 1c].

2. [1990s+] a bisexual person [it swings both ways].


see separate entries.

catgut (n.)

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

cat-lap (n.) [lap n.2 ]

1. [late 18C–19C] tea or coffee; thus cat-lap shop, a breakfast room.

2. [19C] any form of weak drink, incl. watered-down alcohol.

3. [19C] milk.

cat-lick (n.) [the phr. is supposedly reminiscent of a cat, although, in fact, cats are punctilious in their self-cleansing]

[1930s] a casual, perfunctory wash.

cat-licker (n.)

see separate entry.

cat-man (n.)

[1940s–60s] (US black) a cat burglar.

cat-nap (n.) [SE cat-nap, a short sleep]

[2000s] (US prison) a relatively short sentence.


see separate entries.

cat road (n.) [a cat’s nocturnal wanderings]

[1930s–40s] (US) a back road.

In compounds

cat’s ass

see separate entries.

cat’s balls (n.) [balls n.] [1960s] (US)

anything exceptional, superlative.

cat sense (n.)

[1930s–40s] (US black) common sense, intelligence.

cat-shag (v.) [shag v.1 (2)]

[1940s–70s] (Aus.) to fool around.

cat’s head (n.)

1. [mid-18C] a halfpenny roll of bread.

2. [early 19C] the female breast.

catshit (n.) [shit n.]

1. [1980s+] (US) lit. cat excrement, a disgusting or objectional circumstance or individual; also attrib.

2. [1990s+] nonsense.

cat-skin (n.)

1. [mid-19C] a second-rate silk hat.

2. [mid-19C] a military busby or ‘bearskin’.

3. [1970s+] (Irish) the outer crust or end of a loaf of bread.

cat’s kittens (n.) [var. on cat’s pyjamas n.] [1920s] (US)

anything or anyone exceptional, superlative.

cat’s meat (n.)

see separate entry.

cat-smellers (n.) [a cat uses its whiskers as an extra sense]

[mid-19C] (US) facial hair, whiskers.

cat’s meow (n.)

see separate entry.

cat’s mitts (n.) [abbr. SE cat’s mittens; var. on cat’s pyjamas n.] [1910s] (US)

a superior person, or someone who poses as such.

cat’s mother (n.) (also cat’s aunt, ...grandmother, ...father) [? the (middle-class) admonition to a child talking of ‘she’, when describing a woman, who ought to be ‘Mrs X’ or ‘Miss Y’: ‘She’ is the cat’s mother]

[1920s+] a dismissive description of an individual or a response to a question that is considered impertinent or over-intrusive.

cat’s nuts (n.) [nuts n.2 (1); var. on cat’s pyjamas n.] [1910s+] (US)

1. anything exceptional, superlative.

2. a superior person, or someone who poses as such.

cat’s pee (n.) [pee n.1 (1)]

[20C+] any form of weak alcoholic drink.

cat’s piss (n.) [piss n. (3a)]

[1940s+] any form of weak drink.

cat spraddle (v.) [dial. spraddle, to sprawl + ? SE spreadeagle; the image is of a falling cat] [20C+] (W.I.)

1. to fall spreadeagled on the ground.

2. to beat severely.

cat’s prick (n.) [prick n. (1)]

[1990s+] (UK juv.) the elongated end of a burning cigarette, caused by its being shared and smoked fast.

cat’s pyjamas (n.)

see separate entry.

cat sticks (n.) [SE catstick, a stick or bat used in games of tip-cat or trap-ball]

[late 18C–19C] very thin legs; thus catsticked adj.

cat’s water (n.)

[19C] gin.

cat’s whiskers (n.)

see separate entry.

catwanker (n.) [wanker n., lit. one who masturbates cats]

[1990s+] a general term of derision.

cat-whiskey (n.) (also tom-cat whiskey)

[20C+] (US black) cheap, rotgut whisky.

In phrases

black cat (with its throat cut) (n.) (also cat with its throat cut)

[1950s+] the female pubic hair and vagina.

cat and dog (v.) [SE phr. rain cats and dogs]

[1990s+] (Aus.) to rain heavily.

cat and dog life (n.)

[mid-17C+] an unhappy marriage, in which the partners fight like cat and dog.

cat couldn’t scratch it (also one a cat couldn’t scratch)

[1960s+] (US) used of an especially hard penile erection.

cat in a sack (n.)

[1960s–70s] (US) something to be suspicious or wary about; thus buy a cat in a sack, to buy something that one has not actually inspected.

cat in (the) pan (n.) [phr. turn the cat in the pan, ‘to reverse the order of things so dextrously as to make them appear the very opposite of what they really are’ (OED) and/or ? cate (lit. a culinary ‘dainty’ and here used as cake) in the pan, a pancake, which must be turned if it is to be cooked]

[mid-16C–mid-19C] a traitor, one who changes sides to advance their self-interest; thus turn cat in the pan, to inform, to betray, to change sides.

cat (out) (v.)

[1940s+] (US black) to wander the streets aimlessly, to stay out all night, to hide away.

cat’s head cut open (n.) [supposed resemblance]

[19C] the labia minora.

cat up

see separate entries.

like a cat up a chimney

[early 19C] very fast.

like who shot the cat

[1930s] (US) a general intensifier, e.g. very fast, very successful.

live under (the sign of) the cat’s foot (v.) [? SE cat’s foot, a fool]

[late 17C–19C] of a man, to be dominated by one’s wife.

on the cat (US black)

1. [1940s] in hiding.

2. [1950s–60s] staying out at night.

see which way the cat jumps (v.) (also see how the cat jumps, ...the pussy jumps)

[early 19C+] to wait to see how events turn out before making one’s own decision or move.

In exclamations

for cat’s sake!

see separate entry.

my cats!

[1900s] (US) a mild oath.