Proverb: Curiosity killed the cat (possibly 1873)

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Jun 7 20:54:25 UTC 2012

It seems possible that "Curiosity killed the cat" evolved from "Care killed the cat," which is at least as old as the 16th century:  "care" in the sense of 'anxiety' or '(excessive) attentiveness'--not so far from 'inquisitiveness' (or 'curiosity').


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Laurence Horn [laurence.horn at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2012 4:20 PM


As a child, I learned the full proverb in the form of a quasi-couplet:

Curiosity killed the cat
Information brought him back

I see from a quick search that it's usually "satisfaction" rather than "information" that brings him/her/it back.
That was before Bart Jansen perfected his catcopter (or Orville-copter).


On May 31, 2012, at 12:54 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:

> The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs kicked "Curiosity killed the cat"
> out the twentieth century and placed it into the appendix of 'No
> Longer "Modern" Proverbs'.
> Below seems to be the earliest known cite, and it is mentioned in the
> Wikipedia entry, but verifying the date seems to be a difficult task.
> Cite: 1873 (estimate), A Handbook of Proverbs: English, Scottish,
> Irish, American, Shakesperean, and Scriptural; and Family Mottoes,
> Edited by James Allan Mair, Page 34, George Routledge and Sons,
> London. (Google Books full view)
> [Begin excerpt]
> Curiosity killed the cat.   I.
> [End excerpt]
> The "I" designation is used for Irish proverbs.
> Note about year: No date is given in the front pages. The introduction
> refers to a book by Walter K. Kelly with a date of 1870. So the book
> was published on or after 1870. Google Books and several library
> catalogs assign a date of 1873, but some catalogs place question marks
> or dashes in the date field.
> The work is listed in an 1891 Catalogue from the British Museum which
> assigns a date of 1873:
> Cite: 1891, British Museum. Catalogue of Printed Books,
> MAGIO-MALACRIDA, Column 210, Printed by William Clowes and Sons,
> Limited, London. (Google Books full view)
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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