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

Examples of cat's cradle in a Sentence

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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cat's cradle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 18 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

cat's cradle

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

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