Spanish and French words for pussy

Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Thu Jun 24 14:27:13 UTC 1999

French is as much a written language to me as Latin, so I can
contribute no native intuitions, but I note that Herail and Lovatt's
_Dictionary of Modern Colloquial French_ (Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1984) gloss both <chat> and <chatte> as "pussy" = "vagina."  The
multivolume _Tresor de la langue francaise_ attribute the "sexe de la
femme" sense of <chat> to its homonymy with <chas> "eye of a
needle."  Herail and Lovatt also enter <chagatte> with the same sense
as <chat>/<chatte>, though there's no entry for this word in
_Tresor_.  Wartburg's _Franzoesisches etymologisches Woerterbuch_
notes the first appearance of the off-color sense of <chat> in a
19th-century _Dictionnaire erotique moderne_ by one A. Delvau;
no explanation for the meaning is offered.

Jim Rader

> My impression is that "la chatte" means a (female) pussy--in every sense--
> and that, just as with the English word, in determining the sense context is
> everything.  The 1903 Cassell's French-English dictionary I inherited from my
> French professor father simply says "le chat, n.m., la chatte, n.f., cat,
> darling, dear."  My 1993 Harper-Collins Robert (2nd ed.) suggests that the
> feminine form may not generally be used in reference to actual cats:  It
> identifies "le chat" as the generic term for cat (as well as a specific term
> for tomcat), and identifies "la chatte" as the zoological term for "she-cat"
> and "ma (petite) chatte" as an informal term for "my pet, my love" (cf.
> English "pussycat").
> Neither of these desk-size dictionaries alludes to a naughty meaning, but I
> did once see a pornographic film in French (which I hereby declare to have
> been for purposes of linguistic research), and emerged with the distinct
> impression that "chatte" is also used in reference to female pudenda.  The
> parallel (and interactive?) evolution of these terms in English and French
> might make a nice study.
> James E. Clapp

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