tabby (n.)

1630s, "striped silk taffeta," from French tabis "a rich, watered silk" (originally striped), earlier atabis (14c.), from Arabic 'attabi, from 'Attabiyah, a neighborhood of Baghdad where such cloth was made, said to be named for prince 'Attab of the Omayyad dynasty. As an adjective from 1630s.

Tabby cat, one with a striped coat, is attested from 1690s; shortened form tabby first attested 1774. "The wild original of the domestic cat is always of such coloration" [Century Dictionary]. Sense of "female cat" (1826) may be influenced by the fem. proper name Tabby, a pet form of Tabitha, which was used in late 18c. as slang for "spiteful spinster, difficult old woman."

updated on December 08, 2020

Definitions of tabby from WordNet
tabby (n.)
a cat with a grey or tawny coat mottled with black;
Synonyms: tabby cat
tabby (n.)
female cat;
Synonyms: queen
tabby (adj.)
having a grey or brown streak or a pattern or a patchy coloring; used especially of the patterned fur of cats;
Synonyms: brindled / brindle / brinded
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