gri·​mal·​kin | \ gri-ˈmȯ(l)-kən How to pronounce grimalkin (audio) , -ˈmal- How to pronounce grimalkin (audio) \

Definition of grimalkin

: a domestic cat especially : an old female cat

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In the opening scene of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, one of the three witches planning to meet with Macbeth suddenly announces, "I come, Graymalkin." The witch is responding to the summons of her familiar, or guardian spirit, which is embodied in the form of a cat. Shakespeare's graymalkin literally means "gray cat." The gray is of course the color; the malkin was a nickname for Matilda or Maud that came to be used in dialect as a general name for a cat—and sometimes a hare—and for an untidy woman as well. By the 1630s, graymalkin had been altered to the modern spelling grimalkin.

First Known Use of grimalkin

1630, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for grimalkin

gray + malkin

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The first known use of grimalkin was in 1630

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Cite this Entry

“Grimalkin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2022.

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