cat·​er·​waul | \ ˈka-tər-ˌwȯl How to pronounce caterwaul (audio) \
caterwauled; caterwauling; caterwauls

Definition of caterwaul

intransitive verb

1 : to make a harsh cry
2 : to protest or complain noisily

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Other Words from caterwaul

caterwaul noun

Did You Know?

An angry (or amorous) cat can make a lot of noise. As long ago as the mid-1300s, English speakers were using caterwaul for the act of voicing feline passions. The cater part is, of course, connected to the cat, but scholars disagree about whether it traces to Middle Dutch cāter, meaning "tomcat," or if it is really just cat with an "-er" added. The waul is probably imitative in origin; it represents the feline howl itself. English's first caterwaul was a verb focused on feline vocalizations, but by the 1600s it was also being used for noisy people or things. By the 1700s it had become a noun naming any sound as loud and grating as a tomcat's yowl.

Examples of caterwaul in a Sentence

Some animal was caterwauling in my backyard last night. He continues to caterwaul about having to take the blame.
Recent Examples on the Web Media outlets that caterwaul about all this become the victims of commercial crises. The Economist, "Pakistan’s army is using every trick to sideline Nawaz Sharif," 21 June 2018 This lets Congress caterwaul on behalf of special interests while blaming Presidents for not punishing foreigners. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Congress vs. Trump on Tariffs," 7 June 2018 This guy starts caterwauling about his 1st Amendment rights and whatnot. Monique Judge, The Root, "Racist Lime-A-Rita Drinker Gets Tossed Off L Train By Other Passengers For Repeatedly Shouting the N-Word," 9 Oct. 2017 So for all the folks who wanted to caterwaul about some tiny part of Swift's video being somewhat similar to something that Beyoncé once did (that was similar to something that someone else did), please take a seat. Zane Warman, Billboard, "Taylor Swift Video Director Joseph Kahn Says Beyonce's 'Formation' Copied 'Bad Blood'," 7 Sep. 2017 Mr. Sanders, 76, played with John Coltrane near the end of his life, seeming to inherit Coltrane’s affinity for global folk musics, Eastern spirituality and caterwauling expressionism. New York Times, "Pop, Rock and Jazz in NYC This Week," 22 June 2017

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

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First Known Use of caterwaul

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for caterwaul

Middle English caterwawen

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Time Traveler for caterwaul

The first known use of caterwaul was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for caterwaul


How to pronounce caterwaul (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of caterwaul

: to make a very loud and unpleasant sound
: to protest or complain noisily

More from Merriam-Webster on caterwaul

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for caterwaul

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with caterwaul

Comments on caterwaul

What made you want to look up caterwaul? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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