Cat In Different Languages From All Around The World

image of a world map with their flags

Cats are popular pets in many different countries. Where a black cat is considered unlucky in the United States and many other countries, it’s considered good luck in the United Kingdom. In Japan, it’s the three colored calico that’s considered lucky. In Russia, it is good luck to let a cat be the first one to walk into a new house. In Chinese mythology, the cat was deceived by the Rat and has hated him ever since.

In Nigeria, it’s said that cats hate rats because she got blamed for a theft carried out by the rat. In Italian folklore, cats are portrayed as tricksters who may be good or bad. Mongolians mistrust cats due to the destructiveness of snow leopards.

Tales of the Wampus cat are known throughout Native tribes of the Appalacians, but the Cherokee believe Wampus is the spirit of a woman who fought a demon to avenge her husband. In Celtic legend, the Fair Folk sometimes took the form of cats and could do great mischief or bestow great blessings depending on how they were treated. Let’s learn what different languages call cats.

The Americas

image of an orange tabby

The English word comes from the Old English catt from the Late Latin cattus. In Spanish, a cat is gato, a kitten is gatito and a she cat is gata. In French, a cat is chat, a kitten is chaton and a she cat is chatte. (Be warned, this word also vulgarly applies to a part of female anatomy.)

Popoki is the Hawaiian word for cat. In many Native American languages, whether a word refers to the animate or inanimate can affect its usage. Cats are very animate! The Cree call them minos. In Cherokee the cat is called wesa and a kitten is wesa usdi.

The Lakota call the cat “igmu” and the kitten igmu-chi-ka-la. The Mayans politely called the cat “miss”. In the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, tecuani was their word for the jaguar and was sacred to the war god Tezcatlipoca.

Europe

image of a kitty in a pot

It’s in Europe where we find the best known fairy tales and folklore of cats. In Germany a cat is Katze and a kitten is Kätzchen. (Nouns in German always start with capital letters.) In his native Italy, Puss in Boots is called “Il gatto con gli stivali” and in French he’s just “Le Maître Chat” which means simply “The Master Cat”.

The Shrek movies portray the folk hero as Spanish, where he’d be called “El Gato con Botas” and in Portuguese as “O Gato de Botas“. They’re similar languages on the surface, but the sentence structure (among other things) is very different. The Italian word for kitten is gattina.

In Greece, the land of a thousand strays, a cat is gata and a kitten is gataki. In Swedish the word is katt an in Finnish the word is kissa. In Russia, cat names you! But seriously, “koshka” is a girl cat and “kot” is a boy cat.

Africa

image of a sand color kitty

In Egypt, where the cat was once sacred, the word for cat is “mau”. The Swahili word for cat is paka. The Yoruba word for cat is ologbo. The cat is known as ikati among the Zulu people. The Igbo call a domestic feline pusi. In Afrikaans as in Dutch, the word for cat is kat. The cat is bisad among the Somali and ucing among the Sudanesse.

The Arabic word can be Anglicized as “qut” and pronounced like “cut”. In Turkish, the cat is called “kedi”. Iran is the birthplace of the fluffy Persian, where its name is Anglicized as “gorbe“.

In Hebrew, the cat is called chatul, though Yiddish speakers may be more familiar with the pet word ketschele or just kats. In Yiddish, a Katsnkop (“cat in the head”) is a forgetful person.

Asia

image of a tabby feline in a garden

And now, let’s take a slow boat to China where the Mandarian word for cat is mao. Yes, this means Chairman Mao’s name was “Chairman Cat”. In Japan, a cat is called neko and a kitten is koneko. In Japanese anime, a girl with cat ears and other feline features is called a nekomimi.

In India, cats are considered bad luck in general and the word can be Anglicized as billee. The Korean word is goyang-i. In Vietnam the cat is called con mèo. In Malaysia the cat is called kucing. It’s hard to Anglicize the Thai word for cat, but it sounds like a very drawn out “Meow”.

Perhaps like the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Siamese thought their cats were trying to say their name.

And the Rest…

The only two continents left are Australia and Antarctica. A few researchers and fishermen brought their cats with them, but didn’t stay long. One named Bridget climbed the flagpole since there were no trees. In Australia, cats are an invasive species with ferals damaging the environment.

  • June 13, 2018
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.