If you’re sitting catty-corner from someone, what does that mean?

kitty corner

This is an expression that has come up a number of times recently in books I’m reading and which puzzles me a bit. So I thought I’d find out what it means and where it comes from.

Catty-corner means “diagonally across from (one another)” or “located diagonally in relation to something, especially across an intersection.”, and is used in the USA and Canada. It is also written cattycorner, catty-cornered or kitty-corner. It makes me think of a cat in a corner.

It’s apparently a corruption of cater-corner(ed) with influence from catty (cat-like). Cater-corner(ed) means “something at a diagonal to another; of four corners, those diagonal to another.” in the USA and is an old dialect word in the UK meaning “uneven, not square, as mislaid stones or people with a limping gait.” It comes from cater, and old word for four, particularly in card and dice games, from the French quatre (four), and cornered (possessing corners or angles) [source].

According to the Grammarist, the cater in cater-cornered originally referred to the four spots on a die, or the four legs of a beast, and came to refer to the corners of four city blocks meeting. Over time it came to mean something positioned diagonally from something else. Another version of it is caddy-corner.

Are there words or phrases in other languages that have similar meanings?

One thought on “Catty-cornered

  1. In Michigan, I have always heard it said as “kitty-corner”, and it always refers to street directions, when you are located at one corner of an intersection, and need to go to the corner diagonally opposite to it. It’s meaningful because going “across the street” means you are crossing one street, but going “kitty-corner” means you have to cross two streets.

    Here, we never, ever use “catty-corner”. I never heard that expression until I saw it in your article above. And, no one ever associates “kitty-corner” with cats.

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