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A cat meowing.
A cat meowing

A meow (American English) or miaow (British English; /miˈ/),[1] is a vocalization of cats. They have diverse tones and are sometimes chattered, murmured or whispered. 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.[2]


In English, the first use of the spelling "meow" was in 1842. Before that, the word could be spelled "miaow", "miau", or "meaw";[3] the first of these still dominates in British English.

Language differences[edit]

The following table lists the onomatopoeic word for the "miau" or "meow" sound in various languages. In some languages (such as Chinese 貓, māo, and Thai แมว, mæw), the vocalization became the name of the animal itself.

Written form Languages in use
muwaa' (مٌواء) Arabic[4]
meo Vietnamese[5]
meong Indonesian
meow English
miaou French
miau Belarusian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Finnish, German, Ido, Interlingua, Lithuanian, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish
miauw Dutch
miao () Mandarin Chinese
miao Italian
miyav Turkish
miav Danish
mjau Norwegian and Swedish
mao (ম্যাঁও (myām̥ō)) Bengali
meogre Kyrgyz
miaŭ Esperanto
miyāʾūṉ (میاؤں) Urdu[6]
mjá Icelandic
mňau Slovak, Czech
ngeung Kapampangan[7]
njäu Estonian
nyav Ukrainian
mi'au Lojban
niaou (νιάου) Greek[8]
nyā (ニャー) Japanese
ya-ong (야옹) Korean
myau (מיאו) Hebrew
myau (מיאַו) Yiddish
mjau (мјау) Serbian
miáú (miau) or njaú Hungarian
myau (мяу) Russian

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Miaow at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Meowing and Yowling". Virtual Pet Behaviorist. ASPCA. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  3. ^ "Meow". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  4. ^ الدغامين, أحمد (March 6, 2008). "السموع : أسماء أصوات الحيوانات والطيور بالعربية ( الجزء الأول )". Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  5. ^ Peggy Bivens (2002). Language Arts 1, Volume 1. Saddleback Publishing. p. 59. ISBN 978-1562-54508-6.
  6. ^ فیروز الدین‏, مولوی‏. فیروز اللغات اردو جامع (in Urdu) (2nd ed.). Lahore: Feroz Sons, Ltd. p. 1334. ISBN 9690005146.
  7. ^ ""Ngeung, "a cat's meow;" ngumeung, "to meow;" ngeungan, "against whom the cat meows, like at one who is eating."" (PDF). p. 96. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  8. ^ νιαουρίζω. (in Greek). Retrieved 28 May 2012.