The forgotten meaning of "cat" - not the animal!

The questioned word is „cat“. But not the animal.

Everywhere in northern Germany („lower German language“) there are early medieval ways or traces carrying the name „Kattrepel“.

Our research-group found a lost meaning of „Katt“ - „cat“ with the content

„connection“. Latin „catena“, indo-european „cattenu“ etc.

So „Kattrepel“ means simpy an important way leading to a church, a market,

a ford, a sluice….

This meaning was lost in the course of the 15-17th century because of the developing and changing of traffic, commerce, the „Kattrepel“-ways lost their importance.

Does anybody know more about the forgotten meaning of „Katt/cat“ ?

Thank you!
Georg Stark

This word doesn’t appear to have ever made it into English, from the information you’ve provided. It would require looking into German language etymologies.

Hello talia,

“Katt” in german language corresponds to “cat” in english:
catboat
cathead
catblock
catbeam
catstail
catstopper
catted and fished
catanchor
I suppose all this “cat-” words have nothing to do with the animal but with a kind of “connection” or
“binding”. Perhaps the very traditional way of shipbuilding conserves this ancient terms ? So there is a etymological source from which both languages had taken their so similar words ?

Cat-fall, cat-block, a few others, also obscurely in English, all only nautical. Around the North Sea hard to say who borrowed from whom; ship-board was its own language.

Bildschirmfoto 2024-01-23 um 19.27.57
Hi doug, this is from “Imperial Dictionary” by John Ogilvie, Glasgow and London. See also Noah Websters dictionary 1828.
Could it be that a shortening of “Catenate” leads to “cat” ?
In the german language of medieval times we have much indications for that - perhaps in English too?
“cat” meaning the animal hat replaced the old meaning: early medieval routes called “Kattrepel” got lost because of the developing and changing of traffic and society - today they are called “cat/animal ways or paths” which lead us to nonsense. And we had fens called Kattenmoor=catfen in the meaning of a landmark to find your way… and even Kattenberg= cat hill as a landmark for routes to find…

the German etymologists seem just as vague about it. Any projecting knob-like thing could be called a cat’s head or a dog’s head. It might be a term picked up from another technical use. There is also possible influence from catapult, etc. If it originally had to do with raising the anchor, perhaps the Latin “chain” word. You want something like evidence.

Catena became “chain” by the time it hit English through French. The Latin etymology is presumed to be Italic.

OED believes the cat in cathead is from the animal. Some of the nautical terms seem to derive from a type of ship called a cat, but that’s not attested till well after the middle ages.

One of the few English language mentions of Kattrepel I could find, from Anatoly Lieberman: An Analytic Dictionary of the English Etymology: An Introduction - Anatoly Liberman - Google Books

In short he thinks the katt element relates to “bent.”

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In katrepel it is possible that something of the cats is preserved. A katrepel is a part of a city, correct, but lacking what a city is usually represented by. That’s where the cats usually are.