A grimalkin (also called a greymalkin) is an archaic term for a cat. The term stems from "grey" (the colour) plus "malkin", an archaic term with several meanings (a low class woman, a weakling, a mop, or a name) derived from a hypocoristic form of the female name Maud. Scottish legend makes reference to the grimalkin as a faery cat that dwells in the highlands.
During the early modern period, the name grimalkin – and cats in general – became associated with the devil and witchcraft. Women tried as witches in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were often accused of having a familiar, frequently a grimalkin.
Uses in fiction
Beware the Cat was published in 1570 by William Baldwin. The novel is a story of talking cats, and part of it relates the story of the Grimalkin's death. According to the editors of a modern edition, the story, and thus the name, originates with Baldwin in terms of being the earliest example known in print. It is also spelled Grimmalkin or Grimolochin.
A grimalkin appears in chapter 18 of The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The narrator questions if it's a cat looking at a mouse or the devil looking for a soul, in this case that of Judge Pyncheon.
A cat named Grimalkin appears in Shirley Jackson's short story "The Man in the Woods". It is soon ousted in a brief catfight by the new, unnamed black cat who has just arrived in the heels of the young protagonist Christopher. The new cat assumes the name of Grimalkin.
Grimalkin is a character in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. A malk, cat-like faerie acting as a servant to Mab. She uses him as an interpreter, with Grimalkin speaking to other people in her stead while she remains silent. He first appears in Summer Knight.
- "grimalkin, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, Web. 16 June 2015
- "malkin, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2014. Web. 27 October 2014.
- "Ruling Cats and Dogs". Retrieved 20 March 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Baldwin, William (1570). Beware the Cat: The First English Novel, edited by William A. Ringler, Jr. and Michael Flachmann, Huntington Library Press, ISBN 0-87328-087-3 hardcover (1988), ISBN 0-87328-154-3 softcover (1995)
- "Obey the Kitty". Retrieved 20 March 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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