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[kat-er-wawl] /ˈkæt ərˌwɔl/
verb (used without object)
to utter long wailing cries, as cats in rutting time.
to utter a similar sound; howl or screech.
to quarrel like cats.
noun, Also, caterwauling
the cry of a cat in rutting time.
any similar sound.
Origin of caterwaul
1350-1400; Middle English cater(wawen) (equivalent to cater tomcat (< Middle Dutch) + wawen to howl, Old English wāwan to blow, said of the wind) + waul, variant of wail
Related forms
caterwauler, noun
2. wail, shriek, squawk, yowl. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for caterwauling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Like the caterwauling of erotic cats on a midnight roof," said he.

    Painted Veils James Huneker
  • Why, sir, all that caterwauling and stamping was to hide what they were about.

    The Black Bar George Manville Fenn
  • You will see about a decent funeral, Edwards; and I will leave you something to stop the mouth of that caterwauling landlady.

    Sunrise William Black
  • And his wife is one of the most brazen she-devils that ever joined a caterwauling!

  • caterwauling, applied derisively to inharmonious singing; also love-making, from the noise of cats similarly engaged.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • I knew what all this singing and caterwauling would lead to: I said so from the first, and my words have come true.

    The Quiver 12/1899 Anonymous
  • All at once I missed the howling, and the caterwauling grew wilder.

    Lilith George MacDonald
  • Well-educated youths of good family treat me one night to a serenade of caterwauling in my corridor.

    Legends August Strindberg
  • An orchestra of tongs and bones, like the braying of asses or the caterwauling of cats in February, performs the overture.

British Dictionary definitions for caterwauling


verb (intransitive)
to make a yowling noise, as a cat on heat
a shriek or yell made by or sounding like a cat on heat
Derived Forms
caterwauler, noun
Word Origin
C14: of imitative origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for caterwauling



late 14c., caterwrawen, perhaps from Low German katerwaulen "cry like a cat," or formed in English from cater, from Middle Dutch cater "tomcat" + Middle English waul "to yowl," apparently from Old English *wrag, *wrah "angry," of uncertain origin but all somehow imitative. Related: Caterwauled; caterwauling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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