Scaredy Cat: Origins and Meaning

by beaconpet
Scaredy Cat: Origins and Meaning

If you’ve ever called someone a “scaredy cat,” you’re not alone. We all know that person who is timid or easily frightened. But have you ever wondered where this phrase comes from? The term “scaredy cat” has a long history, with written records dating back to the late 1800s. It first appeared as “fraidy-cat” and later evolved into the familiar term we know today. In this BeaConPet‘s article, we’ll explore the origins and meaning of “scaredy cat” and take a look at other cat-related phrases that have left their mark on language. So get ready to dive into the fascinating world of scaredy cats!

Scaredy cat

Cats have a unique and skittish nature that makes them a perfect metaphor for human behavior. When someone is timid or easily frightened, we often refer to them as a “scaredy cat.” This phrase is widely recognized and used, but have you ever wondered about its origins?

The term “scaredy cat” can be traced back to the late 1800s or early 1900s, depending on the source. Its predecessor, “fraidy-cat,” was used as early as 1897 in a newspaper article by The Chronicle. The term gained popularity when it appeared in a short-lived comic strip called Billy Bounce, where the main character was described as a scaredy cat. It was further popularized by author Dorothy Parker in her book The Waltz, published in 1933. Since then, the phrase has become ingrained in our language and is commonly used to describe someone who is skittish or timid.

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Scaredy cat

The inspiration behind the phrase “scaredy cat” is quite apparent to anyone who has encountered a startled cat. Cats are known for their skittish behavior, especially feral cats who are not accustomed to human interaction. Just a sudden movement or loud noise can send them running away in fear. This easily translates to human behavior, where someone who is easily scared or avoids taking risks may be referred to as a scaredy cat.

Cats have been a part of human society for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that they have left their mark on our language. There are numerous cat-related phrases that are commonly used across different cultures and languages. Some of these include:

Let the cat out of the bag

This phrase means to disclose a secret or reveal something that was supposed to be kept hidden. It implies that someone has unintentionally revealed information that they were not supposed to.

Curiosity killed the cat

This phrase is used to caution against being too nosy or overly inquisitive. It suggests that being too curious can lead to trouble or negative consequences.

Raining cats and dogs

This popular phrase describes a heavy rainstorm or bad weather conditions. While the origin of this phrase is uncertain, many theories suggest that it may have originated from the sound of heavy rain resembling the pitter-patter of animals’ paws.

Raining cats and dogs

Cat got your tongue

This cheeky expression is often used to tease someone who is being unusually quiet or shy. It implies that the person is speechless or unable to speak due to embarrassment or nervousness.

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Cat and mouse

This phrase is used to describe a playful or strategic game of chase between two parties. It implies a dynamic where one party is constantly pursuing the other, creating a sense of anticipation and excitement.


The term “copycat” is commonly used to describe someone who imitates or copies another person’s behavior, style, or ideas. It suggests a lack of originality or creativity.

Like herding cats

This colorful phrase is often used to express frustration about trying to coordinate or manage a group of people who are difficult to control or organize. It highlights the independent and unpredictable nature of cats, making them a metaphor for managing challenging situations.

Like herding cats

While cats have certainly made their mark on human language, there are also other phrases and terms that describe fear and timidity. Fear is one of the most primal emotions, and humans have come up with various idioms to express and explain this feeling. Some other colloquial phrases related to fear include:

Afraid of their own shadow

This phrase is used to describe someone who is easily frightened or overly cautious. It suggests that the person is afraid of even the slightest hint of danger or discomfort.


This term is often used to describe an intense feeling of unease or anxiety. It implies a sense of creeping dread or fear, often without a clear cause.

Scared out of your wits

This expression signifies extreme fear or terror. It suggests that something has frightened the person so intensely that they have lost all rational thought or control.

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Like a deer in headlights

This phrase describes someone who is frozen in fear or unable to react to a sudden or shocking situation. It compares the person’s startled reaction to that of a deer caught in the glare of headlights.

Like a deer in headlights

In conclusion, cats have made a significant impact on human language, with phrases like “scaredy cat” becoming ingrained in our everyday speech. Cats’ skittish nature and unique behaviors have made them a perfect metaphor for human behavior and emotions. However, not all cats are the same, and their temperaments can vary. Some cats may be more courageous and less likely to be called scaredy cats, while others may be more timid and easily frightened.

The origins of these phrases can often be traced back to ancient times, where humans used animals and natural phenomena to describe human behavior and emotions. Whether it’s raining cats and dogs or someone is being a copycat, these phrases serve as a colorful way to express ourselves and add depth to our language.

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