Etymology
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fraidy-cat (n.)

"coward, timid person," by 1871, American English slang, from 'fraid (by 1816), childish or dialectal (African, West Indies) pronunciation of afraid, + cat (n.), perhaps in reference to the animals' instinct to scatter when startled. (Scaredy-cat is from 1906).

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CAT 
1975, medical acronym for computerized axial tomography or something like it. Related: CAT scan.
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cat (n.)

Old English catt (c. 700) "domestic cat," from West Germanic (c. 400-450), from Proto-Germanic *kattuz (source also of Old Frisian katte, Old Norse köttr, Dutch kat, Old High German kazza, German Katze), from Late Latin cattus.

The near-universal European word now, it appeared in Europe as Latin catta (Martial, c. 75 C.E.), Byzantine Greek katta (c. 350) and was in general use on the continent by c. 700, replacing Latin feles. Probably ultimately Afro-Asiatic (compare Nubian kadis, Berber kadiska, both meaning "cat"). Arabic qitt "tomcat" may be from the same source. Cats were domestic in Egypt from c. 2000 B.C.E., but not a familiar household animal to classical Greeks and Romans. The nine lives have been proverbial at least since 1560s.

The Late Latin word also is the source of Old Irish and Gaelic cat, Welsh kath, Breton kaz, Italian gatto, Spanish gato, French chat (12c.). Independent, but ultimately from the same source are words in the Slavic group: Old Church Slavonic kotuka, kotel'a, Bulgarian kotka, Russian koška, Polish kot, along with Lithuanian katė and non-Indo-European Finnish katti, which is from Lithuanian.

Extended to lions, tigers, etc. c. 1600. As a term of contempt for a woman, from early 13c. Slang sense of "prostitute" is from at least c. 1400. Slang sense of "fellow, guy," is from 1920, originally in African-American vernacular; narrower sense of "jazz enthusiast" is recorded from 1931.

Cat's paw (1769, but cat's foot in the same sense, 1590s) refers to the old folk tale in which the monkey tricks the cat into pawing chestnuts from a fire; the monkey gets the roasted nuts, the cat gets a burnt paw. Cat burglar is from 1907, so called for stealth. Cat-witted "small-minded, obstinate, and spiteful" (1670s) deserved to survive. For Cat's meow, cat's pajamas, see bee's knees. For let the cat out of the bag, see bag (n.).

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cat-lap (n.)

also catlap, "thin, poor beverage (especially weak tea)," 1785; see cat (n.) + lap (v.1). The notion is "fit only to give to cats."

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cat-head (n.)

"beam projecting from each side of the bows of a ship to hold the anchor away from the body of the ship," 1620s, from cat (n.) in some obscure sense.

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Schrödinger's cat 

by 1972 in reference to the thought experiment proposed in 1935 by Austrian-born physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) in correspondence with Albert Einstein about quantum mechanics. Schrödinger was pointing out a problem in the then-prevailing interpretation of the science. Einstein had written, as an example, about an unstable keg of gunpowder that will in some quantum sense exist in both exploded and unexploded states. To point out the flaw Schrödinger wrote "One can even set up quite ridiculous cases," and described the cat situation, in which the animal is both dead and alive until its state has been observed.

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pussy-cat (n.)

also pussycat, "a cat," 1773, pleonastic, from pussy (n.1) + cat (n.). Applied to persons by 1859.

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kit-cat (n.)

name of a club founded by Whig politicians in London (Addison and Steele were members), 1703; so called from Christopher ("Kit") Catling, or a name similar to it, a tavernkeeper or pastry cook in London, in whose property the club first met. Hence "a size of portrait less than half length in which a hand may be shown" (1754), supposedly is because the dining room in which portraits of club members hung was too low for half-length portraits.

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cat-bath (n.)

"hurried or partial cleaning," 1935, from cat (n.) + bath (n.). Cat-lick in this sense is from 1892; Middle English had cat-likked "licked clean." 

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cat-nap (n.)

also catnap, cat's nap, "a short, light sleep," by 1823, from cat (n.) + nap (n.). A nap such as a cat takes. As a verb from 1859.

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