Have you ever wondered why we call a cat a kitten or kitty? Calling, “here kitty, kitty” seems so natural; as does calling young cats kittens. All words are rooted in their own etymology, the word’s history. According to etymology-dictionary.com, the etymology of the word looks at the first known use of that word as well as it’s derivation.
We know the common definition of kitten is a young animal or cat (noun) or to give birth to kittens (verb). Likewise for kitty, being a young domestic cat or a diminutive name for a cat. The history of these words is fascinating and goes beyond Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus, the Latin terms for our domestic cat friends. Words change over time, and the words kitten and kitty are no exception.
The Oxford Dictionary gives the origin of “kitten” as being late Middle English kitoun or ketoun, from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old French chitoun, diminutive of chat.
“Kitty” is derived from the word kitten and, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, was referred to as “young cat” as early as 1719.
How do you say cat?
- Chat – French
- Koshka – Russian
- Chatool – Hebrew
- Gato – Spanish
- Mao – Chinese
- Ketzl– Yiddish
- Katze – German
- Kissa – Finnish
- Pisica – Romanian
- Neko – Japanese
Any way we speak of cats, either as cats, kittens or kitties, we’re continuing linguistic connections to our ancestors.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Newman