A meow is a vocalization of cats. They have diverse tones and are sometimes chattered, murmured, whispered or muttered. Adult cats rarely meow to each other, so an adult cat meowing to human beings is probably a post-domestication extension of meowing by kittens, a call for attention.
The meow can be assertive, plaintive, friendly, bold, welcoming, attention-soliciting, demanding, or complaining. It can even be silent, where the cat opens its mouth but does not vocalize. Just like humans who may verbalize exhaustively when they're happy, cats can too. According to The Purrington Post, a chatty cat is likely happy too.
A mew is a high-pitched meow often produced by domestic kittens. It is apparently used to solicit attention from the kitten's mother, and adult cats may use it as well. The mew is similar to what is described in Brown et al. 1978 as an isolation call. By around three to four weeks of age kittens do not mew when at least one littermate is present, and at four to five months of age kittens stop mewing altogether.
In English, the first use of the spelling "meow" was in 1842. Before that, the word could be spelled "miaow", "miau", or "meaw". Of any variant, the earliest attestation of a cat's cry in Early Modern English is from the 1630s.
The following table lists the onomatopoeic word for the "miau" or "meow" sound in various languages. In some languages (such as Chinese 喵, miāo, and Thai แมว, mæw), the vocalization became the name of the animal itself.
|Written form||Languages in use|
|miau||Belarusian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Finnish, German, Ido, Interlingua, Latin, Lithuanian, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish|
|miao (喵 or 咪噢)||Mandarin Chinese|
|mjau||Norwegian and Swedish|
|mao (ম্যাঁও (myām̥ō))||Bengali|
|miáú (miau) or nyaú||Hungarian|
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- Romper, June 1, 2018 - Do Cats Smile? Here's How To Tell Your Cat Is Happy, At Least On The Inside By Shari Maurer
- Schötz, Susanne; van de Weijer, Joost; Eklund, Robert (2017-08-25). Phonetic Characteristics of Domestic Cat Vocalisations (PDF). 1st Intl. Workshop on Vocal interactivity in-and-between Humans, Animals and Robots (PDF). pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-2-9562029-0-5.
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- Brown, K.A., Buchwald, J.S., Johnson, J.R. and Mikolich, D.J. (1978). "Vocalization in the cat and kitten". Developmental Psychobiology. 11 (6): 559–570. doi:10.1002/dev.420110605. PMID 720761.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Meow". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
- الدغامين, أحمد (March 6, 2008). "السموع : أسماء أصوات الحيوانات والطيور بالعربية ( الجزء الأول )". Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
- Peggy Bivens (2002). Language Arts 1, Volume 1. Saddleback Publishing. p. 59. ISBN 978-1562-54508-6.
- "Filipino Animal Sounds: Tagalog to English: Dictionary Online". tagaloglang.com. 1 September 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
- فیروز الدین, مولوی. فیروز اللغات اردو جامع (in Urdu) (2nd ed.). Lahore: Feroz Sons, Ltd. p. 1334. ISBN 9690005146.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- ""Ngeung, "a cat's meow;" ngumeung, "to meow;" ngeungan, "against whom the cat meows, like at one who is eating."" (PDF). hau.edu.ph. p. 96. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- νιαουρίζω. WordReference.com (in Greek). Retrieved 28 May 2012.
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