Has the cat got your tongue?


      • to ask why someone is not speaking or to express surprise at their silence
        to inquire about the reason for someone's lack of response or to express astonishment at their silence

    Examples of Has the cat got your tongue?

    • John was usually very talkative in our meetings, but today he barely spoke a word. I asked him, "Has the cat got your tongue?"

      This idiom is used to ask somebody why they have suddenly stopped speaking, usually when there seems to be no obvious reason for their silence. In this example, John's sudden silence has puzzled the speaker, who is asking whether there is a reason for his newfound quietness. The phrase "cat got your tongue" is a lighthearted way of saying that someone is speechless, perhaps due to surprise or shock. The origin of this idiom is unclear, but it may date back to ancient Rome, where it was believed that a cat's tongue could be removed as punishment for lying. Alternatively, it may relate to an old English tradition, where a cat would be placed on a stag's tongue after it had been cut out as part of a hunting ritual. In any case, the phrase "cat got your tongue" is now commonly used in English language as a humorous way to ask why someone appears to be speechless.

    • In the middle of an important meeting, John had been unusually quiet for several minutes. His colleagues looked at him expectantly, but he didn't say anything. One of them finally asked, "Has the cat got your tongue, John?"

      This idiom is used when someone stops speaking unexpectedly. It implies that the person is being overly shy or awkward, as if they have a physical impediment preventing them from speaking. The origin of the expression is uncertain, but it may come from the belief that a cat's bite can cause temporary paralysis of the tongue.

    • Samantha had agreed to give a presentation at the company's annual conference, but she suddenly became too nervous to speak in front of the audience. Her coworkers noticed her trembling hands and asked, "Is the cat sitting on your lap, Sam?"

      This variation of the idiom is still used to denote a sudden loss of speech, but it replaces the literal image of a cat stealing someone's ability to speak with a more playful and lighthearted metaphor. This variation is often used among close friends or colleagues who know each other well and are comfortable with a casual, conversational tone.

    • During a job interview, the candidate's answers were so scripted and rehearsed that the hiring manager began to suspect that she was reading from a prepared statement. She asked, "Does the cat normally dictate your replies during interviews?"

      This example demonstrates the versatility of the idiom as an indirect criticism. It alerts the person being addressed to the fact that their behavior is being questioned, without accusing them directly. By phrasing the inquiry as a humorous and lighthearted observation, the interviewer can create a relaxed and positive atmosphere, and encourage the candidate to explain themselves.

    • After attending several social events in a row, Bethitta became increasingly withdrawn and reluctant to participate in conversations. Her friends noticed her growing discomfort and asked, "Is the cat now a social butterfly, and are you afraid of not being invited to your own party?"

      This example shows the potential for creativity and humor in the idiom, as it takes a somewhat absurd premise and turns it into a humorous observation. It also highlights the ability of the idiom to convey both a serious message and a playful tone, depending on the context and the relationship between the people involved. By combining seriousness and humor in this way, the idiom helps to create a balanced and authentic representation of human communication.


    The idiom "Has the cat got your tongue?" is often used to ask someone why they are not speaking or to express surprise at their silence. It can be used in a playful or teasing manner, but it is also commonly used to prompt someone to speak up or to respond to a question or statement.

    Origin of "Has the cat got your tongue?"

    The origin of the idiom "Has the cat got your tongue?" is not entirely clear, but there are several theories about its origins. One theory suggests that it may have originated from the practice of cutting out the tongues of liars and feeding them to cats as punishment in ancient Egypt. Another theory suggests that it may have originated from the belief that cats have the power to steal a person's voice or speech. Regardless of its exact origins, the idiom has become a common expression in the English language, used to prompt someone to speak or to express surprise at their silence.


    • "Why are you so quiet? Has the cat got your tongue?"
    • "I asked him a question, but he just stood there like the cat had got his tongue."