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, Chinese....so 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.)
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
Welsh: Cath, Kath
Syriac: Kato, Katto
Swedish and Norwegian: Katt
Old Yiddish: Katz (The name also is an acronym for someone who is descended from a Cohen-Tzaddik)
Picardian: Ca, Cahe
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)
In Balinese, the meow of the cat is used to define it as a meong
Bashkir: besey, similar to bes or pesh/puss
Cantonese: Maow, again the maow imitates the cat's vocal 'meow' sound
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
Finnish: kissa; baby cat
French: Le Chat (silent "t"); a kitten is a chaton
Furlan (Friuli): gjat
German: female, die Katze
Greek: ga'ta; kitten is a gataki
Ilocano:(Phillipine dialect): pusa
Indonesian/Malay: Kutjing or kucing
Irish Gaelic: cat
Judeo Spanish: gato
Kurdish (Iran): kitik
Latin: cattus, felis, feles, felix
Lithuanian: Cat-ti-a or kate. A female cat is katite
Manx (Isle of Man): kayt; cats = kiyt; tomcat = kayt firryn; a kitten is a pishin
Norwegian: Katt (also: Kattepus, Pusekatt); kitten is a kattunge; kitty also is called a pus (poos)
Pashto (Afghanistan): pishi
Persian/Farsi (Iran): peesh-ee
Portugese: gato; female cat is a gata; a kitten is a gatito or gatinho
Romanian: pisica ("peeseecka") or pisici;
Sardinian (Campidanese): gatu
Sardinian (Logudorese): gattu
Scots Gaelic: cat; kitten is a piseag; feline is a mar chat
Tagalog (Phillipine dialect): pusa ("poo-sah")
Turkish: Kedi; the plural for cats is kediler
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."