A cat with tigerlike stripes. This is the most adorable kind of cat there is. They have lots of soft fur and precious looking faces. I want one.

Most cats are named in one of two fasions. The first is obvious, and indicates the physical characteristics of the animal. This mostly applies to recent breeds. Other cats, especially the more prized, such as Burmese and Siamese, are named after the region in which they are believed, or were once believed, to have originated.
The Tabby cat is different, although in a bizarre way it falls under the first category.

Attabia was a district of Baghdad, capital of modern Iraq, named after medieval prince Attab. A cultural center, it was the home of Attabi, a distinctive striped silk pattern.

The French enjoyed Attabi under the name Tabis, and when it was exported from France to England, it became Tabby cloth.

The distinctive markings on the common Tabby cat resembled the patterns of Attabi to the extent that the cat was soon named after it. Not so much a matter of homeland or characteristics, then, but a result of coincidence, and the fact that the British feel the need to mangle everyone else's language.

tabby

An old maid ; either from Tabitha, a formal antiquated name ; or else from a tabby cat, old maids being often compared to cats.

To drive Tab ; to go out on a party of pleasure with a wife and family.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Tab"by (?), n.; pl. Tabbies (#). [F. tabis (cf. It. tabì, Sp. & Pg. tabí, LL. attabi), fr. Ar. 'attAbI, properly the name of a quarter of Bagdad where it was made, the quarter being named from the prince Attab, great grandson of Omeyya. Cf. Tobine.]

1.

A kind of waved silk, usually called watered silk, manufactured like taffeta, but thicker and stronger. The watering is given to it by calendering.

2.

A mixture of lime with shells, gravel, or stones, in equal proportions, with an equal proportion of water. When dry, this becomes as hard as rock. Weale.

3.

A brindled cat; hence, popularly, any cat.

4.

An old maid or gossip. [Colloq.] Byron.

 

© Webster 1913


Tab"by (?), a.

1.

Having a wavy or watered appearance; as, a tabby waistcoat. Pepys.

2.

Brindled; diversified in color; as, a tabby cat.

Tabby moth (Zoöl.), the grease moth. See under Grease.

 

© Webster 1913


Tab"by, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Tabbied (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Tabbying (?).]

To water; to cause to look wavy, by the process of calendering; to calender; as, to tabby silk, mohair, ribbon, etc.

 

© Webster 1913

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