Cat’s Cradle


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Cat's Cradle'?

A box-like shape which is made by from twisting a loop of string around their fingers. It is usually played by two players, although some variations may be played by one.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Cat's Cradle'?

This is a popular pastime for children throughout the world. The origin of the phrase or of the game aren’t known, but both are certainly quite old. The first reference to the phrase is in Abraham Tucker’s The light of nature pursued, 1768:

“An ingenious play they call cat’s cradle; one ties the two ends of a packthread together, and then winds it about his fingers, another with both hands takes it off perhaps in the shape of a gridiron, the first takes it from him again in another form, and so on alternately changing the packthread into a multitude of figures whose names I forget, it being so many years since I played at it myself.”

Trend of cat ‘s cradle in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.