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1630s, "striped silk taffeta," from French tabis "a rich, watered silk (originally striped)," from Middle French atabis (14c.), from Arabic 'attabiya, from 'Attabiy, a neighborhood of Baghdad where such cloth was first made, named for prince 'Attab of the Omayyad dynasty. Tabby cat, one with a striped coat, is attested from 1690s; shortened form tabby first attested 1774. 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 "difficult old woman."
type of dark-striped coat colouring found in both wild and domestic cats. One of the most common coat colours, the tabby pattern dates back to domestic cats in ancient Egypt. It is a recognized colour variety in purebred cats and is frequently seen in cats of mixed ancestry. Tabby colouring is highly variable but, for show cats, should consist of the following dark markings: stripes and whorls on the face and cheeks; a pattern like butterfly wings across the shoulders; two rings around the chest; bands on the back and sides; and rings about the legs and tail. Allowable ground colours are brown (see ), silver gray (see ), bluish ivory, and reddish brown (see ).