Definitions

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

  • intransitive v. To cry or screech like a cat in heat.
  • intransitive v. To make a shrill, discordant sound.
  • intransitive v. To have a noisy argument.
  • n. A shrill, discordant sound.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To cry as cats in heat; to make a harsh, offensive noise.
  • v. To have a noisy argument, like cats.
  • n. A yowling.
  • n. A noisy quarrel.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To cry as cats in rutting time; to make a harsh, offensive noise.
  • n. A caterwauling.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cry as cats under the influence of the sexual instinct; make a disagreeable howling or screeching.

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

  • v. utter shrieks, as of cats
  • n. the yowling sound made by a cat in heat

Etymologies

Middle English *caterwawlen : *cater, tomcat; akin to Low German kater + wawlen, wrawlen, to yowl (ultimately of imitative origin).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English caterwrawe (one of numerous earlier variants); from cater ("cat") + wrawen/wrawlen ("cry like a cat"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I was not going to indict, complain or caterwaul, which is why I didn't even consider writing a year-in-review piece before very early this morning.

    Barry Crimmins : Political Satirist:

  • Unfortunately, most of the people who caterwaul about being offended are being serious.

    Still Offended By Language | Heretical Ideas Magazine

  • Most of the people who caterwaul about being offended are being serious.

    2009 February | Heretical Ideas Magazine

  • Although other kids were quicker with the software, Simon enjoyed these studies because he loved learning new words, like caterwaul, which meant “to shriek or yowl,” and taciturn, which described someone who was quiet… like him.

    Watercolored Different

  • It's a comedy rule, it seems, that the louder you can say a line or caterwaul in reaction to some hoary bit of high jinks, the more uproarious the moment becomes.

    Theater review: 'Fox on the Fairway' at Signature Theatre

  • Jump the chair light the stove heat the pan stop the floor caterwaul beneath the faucet

    Butter Beans

  • You walk in to the deafening metronome uncha-uncha-uncha robotic caterwaul, the music almost binary in nature 101101-ing to a crowd of Latino gangbangers, septuagenarians, slumming rich kids and washed-up high school jocks with backwards hats who were just looking for something to date rape.

    Someplace Else

  • The Australian government is having a harder time endorsing the verdict, prompting the predictable caterwaul from China.

    China Convicts Itself

  •  The warbling, caroling, tweeting and trilling were a caterwaul of happiness.

    Animal Park (Part II)

  • The NRA could publicly gnash their teeth and caterwaul about mass disarmament resulting from the draconian rules imposed by the state of North Carolina and the dark overlords of the Time-Warner Cable Arena.

    Josh Sugarmann: NRA Annual Meeting: No Guns Allowed

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