Cat Got Your Tongue | Meaning

You have probably heard the phrase, “cat got your tongue” before. This is an idiomatic expression, and just like every idiom, using this phrase while conversing adds beauty to your conversations.

However, have you ever wondered about the meaning of this expression and how to use it?

If you are among those who don’t know the meaning of this expression and you’d love to use it while conversing with people, this article has got you covered.

In this guide post, I’ll explain the meaning and some interesting facts about “cat got your tongue” and how to use this expression in a sentence.

Ultimately, you’ll know some alternative phrases to this expression.

What Does Cat Got Your Tongue Means?

“Cat got your tongue” is a figurative expression. This expression is used to question a silent person who you expect to talk to.

If you’re speaking with someone or asking a question and they don’t respond, this is a befitting phrase to use. 

It means, “Why aren’t you talking?” Used when a person is not responding.

Also, people can use it to taunt someone they’ve made speechless to provoke them to speak or just to make fun of them.

Interesting Facts About “Cat Got Your Tongue”

“Cat got your tongue” has some interesting facts that surround its usage and origin. According to some sources, this phrase’s origin is quite vague. However, there are certain stories believed to be the origin of the phrase.

The first documented form of the phrase can be traced to an 1859 newspaper article in Wisconsin, US, where a remark about a rainy day got no response.

Also, another written form can be found in a magazine from 1881, where the writer described the phrase as a children’s mockery.

Below are three exceptional stories surrounding the phrase’s origin and usage:

The Cat O’ Nine Tails 

The tale of the cat o’ nine tails is one of the purported stories behind the origin of “cat got your tongue.” The cat o’ nine tails was a whip used for torture by the English Royal Navy in the 18th through the 19th century. 

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This whip consisted of nine leather straps knotted together by a series of knots, and so was nicknamed the ‘cat’. It was used to discipline unruly sailors.

Whenever a sailor receives a beating, they either pass out or lay silent in pain. Other sailors then taunt them saying, “Has the cat got your tongue?”

The Ancient Egyptian Practice of Cutting the Tongue

Another interesting story that surrounds the “cat got your tongue” usage is the ancient Egyptian practice of cutting a criminal’s tongue.

The ancient Egyptians were known worshippers of cats. So, criminals, liars, and blasphemers were punished by cutting off their tongues and feeding them to cats.

They believed by cutting off their tongue and feeding to cats, the criminals were absolved of their sins.  What’s more, they wouldn’t be able to commit such crimes again, also serving as a warning to others.

The Witches’ Superstition of Stealing Tongues 

Another story that’s believed to have influenced the usage of this phrase “cat got your tongue” is the belief of witches that stole tongues.

Ancient Christians feared cats, especially black cats, attributing them to witches. Many of them believed that witches appeared in the form of black cats carrying out their evil practices.

And if you were unfortunate to see them, they’d take your tongue to prevent you from telling what you saw. 

How to Use “Cat Got Your Tongue” in Sentences

You can use this expression, “cat got your tongue in different ways. First, you can use it to make fun of someone who has nothing to say during a quarrel or conversation.

Also, you can use it to scold someone who wouldn’t speak to you or to compel someone into talking.

Below are the ways to use this expression in a sentence:

To Scold Someone Not Speaking

  • I’m talking to you, Jane! Cat got your tongue?
  • Don’t stand there mute! Has the cat got your tongue?

To make fun of someone

  • Wow! I can see the cat got your tongue this time
  • Nothing to say? Cat got your tongue?
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To narrate an incident

  • I saw Kelly screaming at Sarah, but she just stood there like the cat got her tongue
  • While the principal questioned me, the cat suddenly got my tongue. I had wished the ground would open and swallow me

Cat Got Your Tongue Synonyms 

There are different synonyms for this expression, “cat got your tongue.” As I’ve previously mentioned, this expression describes someone who you expect to reply to a statement but doesn’t.

So, phrases like, “lost for words,” “tight-lipped,” “tongue-tied,” and “dumbstruck” are good examples.

Here are some alternatives to”cat got your tongue.”

  • Lost for words
  • Tongue-tied
  • Speechless
  • Mute
  • Dumbstruck
  • Dumbfounded
  • Tight-lipped

Lost for Words 

“Lost for words” is one of the synonyms for “cat got your tongue.” This expression clearly describes someone who doesn’t know what to say.

It explains a desire to speak, but lacking the words to. So, this phrase is perfect to use when someone wants to speak but doesn’t have what to say, probably because they’re too shocked.

For instance, giving a good comeback that shuts someone up while arguing with them.

Here’s how to use this expression:

  • Are you suddenly lost for words? I think I got you there
  • I stood there lost for words when the teacher scolded me 


Cat Got Your Tongue- Meaning

“Tongue-tied” is another perfect expression that can replace “cat got your tongue.” 

As we already know, we won’t be able to articulate sounds without the tongue. So, if a cat takes your tongue, you won’t be able to speak. Likewise, if your tongue is tied. 

So, you can use this phrase instead of “cat got your tongue” to describe or question someone’s silence. 

Here’s an example:

  • I stood there tongue-tied like a moron while he threw insults at me
  • Don’t you have any response? Are you tongue-tied?


“Speechless” is another perfect synonym for “cat got your tongue.” 

This is a very popular word people use when they don’t have anything to say; usually, a feeling of lack of words when they’re too shocked to speak.

Here’s an example:

  • Grace turned speechless immediately after her crush came in 
  • His stunt performance on the field made me speechless. I never knew he had in him
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Another word you can use as an alternative to “cat got your tongue” is mute.

This is a simple description of silence. You can describe someone who doesn’t want to speak or who can’t speak as mute.

Here’s how to use the expression:

  • She suddenly went mute as I walked in on her trying to steal my phone
  • I’m glad I caught her red-handed. She has been mute since then


Cat Got Your Tongue- Meaning

“Dumbstruck” is another popular expression you can use to describe someone silent when you expect them to talk.

Also, it fits the description of someone who’s shocked into silence. For instance, hearing bad news can make someone speechless.

Here’s an example:

  • I was dumbstruck when he tried to hit me 
  • My father was left dumbstruck after he heard the news of the fire 


“Dumbfounded” is another word that can replace “cat got your tongue.” Just like the above, it’s an expression that fits someone who’s shocked into silence.

Here’s an example:

  • We were all dumbfounded when she appeared suddenly
  • She looked at me, dumbfounded that I could speak back to her 


Another good alternative to “cat got your tongue” is “tight-lipped.”

First, just like the tongue, the lips are another part of the body for articulating speech. While you can produce sounds with your lips closed, you can’t make meaningful words with closed lips.

So, when someone is tight-lipped it means their lips are closed together. It’s a good description for someone who won’t speak.

Here’s how to use the expression:

  • Why are you tight-lipped? Have you got nothing to say?
  • He’s always tight-lipped about his job

Final Thoughts

“Cat got your tongue” is one of the old phrases that’s used to scold, question, or make fun of someone who wouldn’t speak.

Also, there are numerous ways to use this expression while conversing with people. So, feel free to try this idiomatic expression appropriately. Also, there are alternative phrases to keep at the back of your mind.


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