1 : to make a harsh cry
2 : to protest or complain noisily
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.
The toddler caterwauled loudly when her toy was taken away.
"Stockton's leaders clearly calculated that at this point they have little to lose by shortchanging bondholders-its credit rating is already so low that it'd have a hard time financing a used Hyundai with $5,000 down-and that while creditors may sue, complain, and caterwaul, they do not get to vote." - From an article by Kevin D. Williamson in National Review, April 3, 2013
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