Definition of caterwaul
1 : to make a harsh cry
2 : to protest or complain noisily
caterwaul was our Word of the Day on 05/16/2013. Hear the podcast!
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of caterwaul
Middle English caterwawen
First Known Use: 14th century
CATERWAUL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of caterwaul for English Language Learners
: to make a very loud and unpleasant sound
: to protest or complain noisily
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up caterwaul? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).