The term ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is an expression that’s used as a warning for anyone who is acting excessively curious, as their prying behavior may lead them to harm.
The Origin Of ‘Curiosity Killed The Cat’
The saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’ highlights a certain aspect of a cat’s personality. If you’ve ever owned a cat before, you probably know just how curious these creatures can be. As someone who’s owned several, let me give an example:
Cats love to investigate new things in their environment. So let’s say you bring home a new chair. A cat will immediately notice. They’ll go over to it (approaching with caution) to figure out what it is. They’ll smell it, touch it, and once they feel comfortable enough, they will probably jump on it. Before long, that chair becomes the cat’s new favorite napping spot.
This is just one example, but the point is that they are curious. Thus, it’s not surprising to see a phrase like this one existing. I wonder if the person who came up with it was a cat owner. He must have been!
Anyways, there is an older form of this expression that goes: “Care killed the cat.” The word “care” in this case seems to be defined as “worry” or “sorrow.” This form of the expression goes back to at least the 16th century. It’s used by a few playwrights during that time. For example, an English playwright named Ben Jonson used it in a play called Every Man in His Humour, 1598. Another playwright, William Shakespeare, used the expression in the play Much Ado About Nothing, written in or around 1599:
“What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.“
So what about the modern form of this phrase (with the word “curiosity” in it)? The earliest I could find it in print is from a book by James Allan Mair called Proverbs and Family Mottoes, 1891. It’s listed as a proverb on one of the pages:
“Curiosity killed the cat.“
See Also: Cat and dog sayings
Example Sentences For ‘Curiosity Killed The Cat’
- Josh and Jennifer have been acting strange around each other lately. I was asking around trying to figure out what happened between them, but my friend said that curiosity killed the cat and I should just leave it alone.
Note: If you want to see more idioms like this one, well, you can! In fact, we have a full list of old sayings in English that you can check out at any time. You’ll find dog and cat sayings, bird idioms, and more. So w-otter you waiting fur? Give it a look!