รดรด

Kitty-Corner or Catty-Corner?

Where you live can determine whether you describe something that is diagonally across from something else as kitty-corner or catty-corner. See the map of responses to my Facebook survey.

By
Mignon Fogarty

You know how time seems to fly? Well more than three years ago I surveyed my Facebook fans about whether they say kitty-corner or catty-corner, and turning that data into a post has been on my list of things to do ever since. Finally, here it is!

kitty corner versus catty corner is regional

Cater-Corner

All the words come from the original base word cater which means “four” and comes from the French word for four: quatre.

Americanism

The Oxford English Dictionary lists cater-corner as the main word and calls kitty-corner and catty-corner variants, but these are also Americanisms and the OED has a British bent, so I’m not surprised to find in an Ngram search that kitty-corner and catty-corner are actually used far more often than cater-corner. (h/t to @EditorMark for the Ngram search.)

Regional Differences

As you can see from the map of responses, people in the South, as far west as Texas and as far north as Pennsylvania and Nebraska, are much more likely to say catty-corner, whereas everyone else in the US and Canada is more likely to say kitty-corner.

Many Other Spellings

What surprised me most about this survey was how many words people reported using other than kitty-corner and catty-corner. In many cases, it seemed as if people may have only heard the saying and then guessed at the spelling:

  • cat-corner
  • carry-corner
  • cat-a-corner
  • caddy-corner
  • catta-corner
  • cata-corner
  • cat-uh-corner
  • ketty-corner
  • kiddy-corner
  • kiddie-corner

The Dictionary of American Regional English has even more variants: kitty-cross, kitty-katty, kittering, and kitty-wampus, which means “askew” instead of “diagonally across” like all the others. My mom used to say kitty-wampus (which the OED spells as catawampous), and I was disappointed to see that the OED lists the origin as unknown.

The bottom line is that kitty-corner is considered dialect and informal and you can spell it pretty much any way you want, although it does always take a hyphen. If you work for a formal publication, check how it’s spelled in your organization’s style guide or recommended dictionary.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

You May Also Like...

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.