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A cat meowing.
A cat meowing.

A meow /miˈ/, also spelled miaow, is the most familiar vocalization of cats. A 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. Adult cats rarely meow to each other, and so adult meowing to human beings is likely to be a post-domestication extension of meowing by kittens.[1]


In English, the first use of the spelling "meow" was in 1842. Before that, the word could be spelled "miaow", "miau", or "meaw".[2]

Language differences[edit]

Different languages have correspondingly different words for the "meow" sound, including:

Written Form Languages in Use
meo-meo Vietnamese[3]
meong Indonesian
miaou French
miau Bulgarian, Belarusian, Croatian, Hungarian, Finnish, Interlingua, Lithuanian, Malay, German, Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Ukrainian
miauw Dutch
miao () Mandarin Chinese, Italian
miyav Turkish
miav Danish
mjau Swedish and Norwegian
miaŭ Esperanto
miyāʾūṉ (میاؤں) Urdu[4]
mjá Icelandic
mňau Czech
ngeung Kapampangan[5]
njäu Estonian
niau Ukrainian
niaou (νιάου) Greek[6]
nyā (ニャー) Japanese
ya-ong (야옹) Korean
myau (מיאו) Hebrew

In some languages (such as Chinese 貓, māo), the vocalization became the name of the animal itself.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Meowing and Yowling". Virtual Pet Behaviorist. ASPCA. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "Meow". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Peggy Bivens (2002). Language Arts 1, Volume 1. Saddleback Publishing. p. 59. ISBN 978-1562-54508-6. 
  4. ^ فیروز الدین‏, مولوی‏. فیروز اللغات اردو جامع (in Urdu) (2nd ed.). Lahore: Feroz Sons, Ltd. p. 1334. ISBN 9690005146. 
  5. ^ [1] "Ngeung, “a cat’s meow;” ngumeung, “to meow;” ngeungan, “against whom the cat meows, like at one who is eating.” (p. 96)
  6. ^ νιαουρίζω. Word Reference (in Greek). Retrieved 28 May 2012.