cat's cradle


: a game in which a string looped in a pattern like a cradle on the fingers of one person's hands is transferred to the hands of another so as to form a different figure
: something that is intricate, complicated, or elaborate
a cat's cradle of red tape

Illustration of cat's cradle

Illustration of cat's cradle
  • cat's cradle 1

Example Sentences

a cat's cradle of government regulations
Recent Examples on the Web The image on the Leopoldstadt playbill is of a young Jewish child playing with a cat's cradle. Christian Holub,, 13 Oct. 2022 But that string can still be made into something perfect: As Ludwig lovingly points out to his grand-nephews, the knots in the cat's cradle always stay the same distance apart no matter how the configuration is manipulated. Christian Holub,, 13 Oct. 2022

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cat's cradle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1754, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cat's cradle was in 1754

Dictionary Entries Near cat's cradle

Cite this Entry

“Cat's cradle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

cat's cradle


: a game played with a string looped on the fingers so as to resemble a small cradle

More from Merriam-Webster on cat's cradle

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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