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Why is a cat called a puss in so many different languages?

Why is a cat called a puss in so many different languages?
Anne Hart, photography and novels/stories book.

Have you ever wondered why the word for cat sounds like the word, 'cat' in so many different languages? The word for cat sounds the same regardless of the language family--Uralic, Indo European, Hamitic/Nubian, Semitic, Basque, many different languages, but not all languages call a cat what sounds like the word 'cat' or they call it a puss. But why is a cat called cat or puss in different language groups around the world? And how did you pick your cat's name--or your dog's name? For example, in Arabic a kitten is a kitt, and a cat is a khatt, pronounced 'cat' but with the 'kh' sound like a 'k' but further back in the throat. And a cat in so many languages is either a puss/pussy or a cat/kitti. You also may wish to check out how cats 'talk' in different languages, "What Do Cats Say in Different Languages?"

Here's the history of cat names. Look at the origin in ancient times for the word 'cat.' We often call a cat 'puss' as in the children's story titled Puss 'N Boots. The word 'puss' used for 'cat' comes from the ancient Egyptian word 'pasht,' meaning cat. It was pronounced in Egypt, Persia, and all over the ancient Middle East as "Pishk" east of the Nile and "Pasht" west of the Nile. And today the word survives as Pishik in Yiddish and modern Persian (Farsi). Was there once a universal language to refer to a cat, whether the cat breed was domesticated or wild?

It comes from a proto language that once included Indo-European and also Afro-Asiatic (Hamitic/Semitic). We often call a cat 'puss'or pussy cat. Guess how old that word for cat or cat's names is? Pash and kat come from the Indo-European languages, but in some Semitic languages or in other tongues from different language groups, a cat also is called a cat or a khat or a qat or a pasht. But how did the Samoan word for cat, a pusi come into being? Or Ilocano:(Phillipine dialect) word pusa for pussy cat?

Pasht, for cat, later evolved to Bast and then to Bastet, another cat-headed goddess in Egypt. In ancient Iraq and Persia (Iran) the word for cat was Pishik. In Arabic cat is kitt and khatte. See how the word for cat, held in high esteem and worshipped in the ancient middle east, is pronounced the same--either cat or pus (pishk) in Indo European, Semitic languages, Hamitic, Basque, and other languages.

Some of the words for cat point to a proto-language spoken 10,000 years ago in which a lot of people had the same word for 'cat.' Chai is the Chinese word for 'cat'. So the word for cat could be used in languages that existed before Indo-European or Hamitic-Semitic language groups were around. Even the non-Indo European Basque word 'catua' for cat or the Hamitic Nubian word for cat, 'katiska' seems to put emphasis on the sound of 'cat.'

Here's the word for cat in other languages

Persian: Pushak (Pishik)
Old Yiddish: Pishika (teenage female cat, sometimes used to call someone a teenager) Modern Yiddish: ketzl, katz; a kitten is a ketzleh; a Pisha is a teenage male cat. A human male teenager also is a pisha and a teenage human female a pishika. (Teenagers used to be called 'cats' pisha or pishika at the turn of the century.)
Afghan: Pishak
Kurdish: Pishig
Irish: Pus (Puss)
Sanskrit: Puccha, Pukha, Puccha
Arabic: Kitt, Khatte, and also ghat ("gh" is guttural), and where Q is pronounced as a 'k' but further back in the throat, a cat is a qit, quitt, besseh or biss, seems to come from the old Egyptian Bes, perhaps?
Armenian: Kitta, Ketah, gatz
Basque: Catua
Catalonian: Gat
Spanish: Gato
Portuguese: Gato
Italian: Gatto
Cornish: Kath
Welsh: Cath, Kath
Syriac: Kato, Katto
Turkish: Kati
Swedish and Norwegian: Katt
German: Katze
Old Yiddish: Katz (The name also is an acronym for someone who is descended from a Cohen-Tzaddik)
Dutch: Kat
French: Chat
Burgundian: Chai
Picardian: Ca, Cahe
Polish: Kot
Russian: Kots
Chinese: Chai (Note same pronunciation, but unrelated languages, or is there an ancient common ancestor?)
Nubian: Katiska, Kadiska
Ancient Egyptian: Pasht, also Bast, later goddess, Bastet.

Assyrian: katu or qatoo (pronounced cat-two)

Asturian: gatu

Azerbaijani: pisik

In Balinese, the meow of the cat is used to define it as a meong

Bashkir: besey, similar to bes or pesh/puss

Basque: Katu

Belorussian: koska

Bergamasco: gat

Breton: kaz

Bulgarian: kotka

Calabrese: gat

Cantonese: Maow, again the maow imitates the cat's vocal 'meow' sound

Catalan: gat

Cornish: kath

Danish: Kat; kitten = Kattekilling; also use Mise

Dari (Iran): pishak, similar to the old Iranic-Indo European pishika, also used in Yiddish or the ancient Egyptian pesht/best

Egyptian (ancient): Mou ("ou" as in "ouch") as in the Egyptian Mau cat breed

Egyptian: kut

Inuit: Pussi

Estonian: kass

Evenki: koshka

Faeroese: kattur

Filipino: pusa

Finnish: kissa; baby cat

French: Le Chat (silent "t"); a kitten is a chaton

Frisian: kat

Furlan (Friuli): gjat

Gallego: gato

Georgian: kata

German: female, die Katze

Greek: ga'ta; kitten is a gataki

Hebrew: chatool

Hindi: chatatula

Icelandic: köttur

Ilocano:(Phillipine dialect): pusa

Indonesian/Malay: Kutjing or kucing

Inuktikut: puusi

Irish Gaelic: cat

Judeo Spanish: gato

Karelian: kazi

Kurdish (Iran): kitik

Latin: cattus, felis, feles, felix

Latvian: kachit

Lingala: pusi

Lithuanian: Cat-ti-a or kate. A female cat is katite

Maltese: qattus

Manx (Isle of Man): kayt; cats = kiyt; tomcat = kayt firryn; a kitten is a pishin

Mundari: pusi

Napolitano: gatta

Norwegian: Katt (also: Kattepus, Pusekatt); kitten is a kattunge; kitty also is called a pus (poos)

Palauan: Katuu

Pashto (Afghanistan): pishi

Persian/Farsi (Iran): peesh-ee

Polish: Kot

Portugese: gato; female cat is a gata; a kitten is a gatito or gatinho

Romanian: pisica ("peeseecka") or pisici;

Russian: kot;

Samoan: pusi

Sardinian (Campidanese): gatu

Sardinian (Logudorese): gattu

Scots Gaelic: cat; kitten is a piseag; feline is a mar chat

Shona: katsi

Sicilian: gattu

Sorbian: kocka

Sotho: katse

Spanish: gato

Swedish: katt

Tagalog (Phillipine dialect): pusa ("poo-sah")

Tatar: pesi

Tongan: pusi

Triestino: gato

Tswana: katse

Turkish: Kedi; the plural for cats is kediler

Turkmen: pishik

Ukrainian: kotuk

Vogulic: kati

Welsh: cath

Xhosa: kati

Zulu: kati

Are there universal words for dog, wolf, tiger, bear, or lion also? What about for 'pets' in general? You may also wish to check out the site, "Best Cat Names - Choose From The Most Popular Names."

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