Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Distant relative, especially a very distant relative, of doubtful relation.
  • n. A close or good friend. An intimate. A bosom friend. An intimate friend who is not a blood relation. A person treated as a cousin (relative) who is not a blood relation

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A remote relation. See quater-cousin.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A fourth cousin; a remote relation; hence, a friend.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

cater- +‎ cousin, where cater- is of disputed origin. Liberman argues that this is a prefix meaning “crooked, angled, clumsy” – here meaning “distant, doubtful, deficient”, of North Germanic origin; compare cater-corner. The sense “distant relation, doubtful relation” appears to be older than “intimate friend”; in 19th century Lancashire dialect, the sense is specifically “very distant and doubtful relation”.

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