representation of cat sound, 1842, earlier miaow, miau, meaw (1630s). Of imitative origin, compare French miaou, German miauen, Persian maw, Japanese nya nya, Arabic nau-nau, and Joyce's mrkgnao. In Chinese, miau means "cat." As a verb in English by 1630s, meaw, also meawle. Compare Old French miauer "to meow, caterwaul." Related: Meowed; meowing.