Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A person used by another as a dupe or tool.
  • n. A light breeze that ruffles small areas of a water surface.
  • n. Nautical A knot made by twisting a section of rope to form two adjacent eyes through which a hook is passed, used in hoisting.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A pawn or dupe; somebody who has been unwittingly tricked into acting in another's interest.
  • n. A knot of a certain kind resembling a lark’s-foot hitch; see cat's paw for more detailed information.
  • n. A breeze that ruffles patches of a water surface.
  • n. A small crowbar.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. A light transitory air which ruffles the surface of the water during a calm, or the ripples made by such a puff of air.
  • n. A particular hitch or turn in the bight of a rope, into which a tackle may be hooked.
  • n. A dupe; a tool; one who, or that which, is used by another as an instrument to a accomplish his purposes.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Naut:
  • n. A light air perceived in a calm by a slight rippling of the surface of the water.
  • n. A peculiar twist or hitch in the bight of a rope, made to hook a tackle on.
  • n. One whom another makes use of to accomplish his designs; a person used by another to serve his purposes and to bear the consequences of his acts; a dupe: as, to make a person one's cat's-paw.
  • n. In botany, same as cat's-foot.
  • n. In bookbinding, the mark made on the covers or edges of a book by a sponge containing color or staining fluid.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a person used by another to gain an end
  • n. a hitch in the middle of rope that has two eyes into which tackle can be hooked

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

From a fable about a monkey that used a cat's paw to pull chestnuts out of a fire.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Meaning 1: From a fable, perhaps of Aesop's, in which a crafty monkey uses flattery to convince a cat to pull hot chestnuts from a fire. The cat singes his paw, and the monkey gobbles up the chestnuts leaving none for the cat. Meaning 2: Probably due to resemblance in terms of shape.

Examples

  • Informed with his will and wisdom, the Elsinore was no cat's-paw.

    CHAPTER XXX

  • The question is, where do you put political muscle behind these sentiments so that the Saudis stop supporting Wahhabi Islam and al Qaeda and even the Palestinians, who've been used as a cat's-paw to direct pressure from these autocracies?

    Obama's Sense of Ummah

  • Even if this book is propaganda, and Mother Teresa the cat's-paw of Vatican fundamentalists, there's something here beyond the muckraker's ken.

    Trashing Mother Teresa

  • President Jonathan F. Fanton says broadening the restrictions would turn the NEA into a censoring Obscenity Board, a conservative cat's-paw usurping the courts.

    Fine Art Or Foul?

  • Israel was "doing the Lord's work," defending freedom against the "Iranian cat's-paw" of terrorism.

    The Peter Principle Playoffs

  • Playing cat's-paw to the Administration, Congress has turned aside all demands for an independent investigation of Abu Ghraib and the other horrors -- and of the policies that led to them.

    Anthony Lewis: The Torture Administration

  • For three years the spotted owl has been a cat's-paw in the battle over national forests, which lumber companies are allowed to log.

    The Birds And The Trees

  • JEFFREY: ... when they get a government on the ground in place that is stable, they're not going to want to be a cat's-paw of the Iranian regime.

    CNN Transcript Mar 17, 2006

  • If you want my full and undivided attention-- I mean, if you want me rigidly alert like a German guard-dog-- simply compile an intriguing set of "dots" which include phrases like: "...he never realized he was being used as a cat's-paw in a conspiracy."

    Archive 2005-02-01

  • Is Johnny her new red-hot lover, or a cat's-paw for her latest heist?

    Archive 2005-02-01

Comments

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  • There was a "Star Trek" episode named this.

    September 12, 2012

  • "6. In bookbinding, the mark made on the covers or edges of a book by a sponge containing color or staining fluid." --Century Dictionary

    Uh... staining fluid?

    September 28, 2010

  • Citation on fluctuant.

    July 30, 2008