Curiosity Killed The Cat

Meaning:

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.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
1. Sticking one’s nose into other people’s business
A curious cat, a small playful kitten.

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 investigating new things in their environment. So let’s say you bring home a new piece of furniture and put it in the living room. Your cat will notice. They’ll slowly and cautiously approach it, then they’ll smell it, touch it, and once they have finished their evaluation and feel comfortable near it, they’ll probably jump on it. Who knows, that piece of furniture might even become their new favorite napping spot. 

The point is that cats are indeed curious little creatures, and sometimes that curiosity gets them into trouble. So it’s not surprising to see a phrase like this one.

Anyway, there is an older form of this expression that goes: “Care killed the cat.” In this case, the word “care” seems to mean “worry” or “sorrow.” This form of the expression goes back to at least the 16th century. A few playwrights use it 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.


Example Sentences For ‘Curiosity Killed The Cat’

  • Josh and Jennifer have been acting strange around each other lately. I wanted to figure out what was going on between them, so I asked around, but a friend told me that curiosity killed the cat and I should just leave it alone.

Tip: Want to see more idioms like this one? Well, you can! We have a full list of old sayings in English that you can check out at any time. They are separated into categories too, like animals, food, and sports.

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