This is an explanation of the origins of the word, ‘cat’. I feel I should try and do this as it is at the heart of a site about cats. Although not always the case, there are many languages that have similar words to the English ‘cat’. Here are some examples:
- gat (Catalan)
- kat (Danish and Dutch)
- kato (Esperanto)
- kass (Estonian)
- chat (French)
- gato (Galician)
- katze (German)
- gatto (Italian)
- cattus (Latin)
- kaķis (Latvian)
- katė (Lithuanian)
- qattus (Maltese)
- katt (Norwegian)
- kot (Polish)
- gato (Portuguese and Spanish)
It appears we can go back to the word ‘utchat’. What does this word mean? It is the eye of Ra or Eye of Horus, an ancient Egyptian symbol and the Egyptian sacred eye:
The Egyptian Cat Goddess Bast was, in the early days, a lion headed goddess. She protected the Pharaoh and the sun God Ra. She was the goddess of protection. In that role she was the holder of the Utchat – the all seeing eye.
In later years she had the head of a cat and represented ‘more nurturing aspects’ (http://www.goddess-guide.com). By the time of the Middle Kingdom (2055 BC and 1650 BC) in ancient Egypt she began to be regarded as a domestic cat rather than a lioness.
Here then we have a connection between ‘utchat’ and the domestic cat. The god Bast is well known. She was a ‘local diety’ situated in what is now known as Zagazig. Sacrifices were made to her in the form of deliberately killed kittens bred for the purpose – big business ancient Egyptian style.
The cat goddess Bast (or Bastet) became Pasht later on in Egypt (305 BC to 30 BC). From ‘Pasht’ the English words ‘puss’ and ‘pussy’ developed. Apparently there are other words for cats based on ‘pasht’ – past, pushd and pusst but I can’t find out more on this derivatives.
That’s it, basically. Perhaps the nearest modern word to ‘utchat’ is the French ‘chat’.
Associated: Origin of the word ‘meow’.