from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective informal In disarray or disorder; askew.
  • adjective Not directly across from nor adjacent to.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


The word cattywampus has been adopted by Marjanne Pearson.

Help support Wordnik by adopting your own word here.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • I always heard it as catawampus, and despite googlings which define it as being similar to "kitty corner", as a child I was told it was a swamp monster.

    December 17, 2006

  • Interesting, I have heard it used as a synonym to askew.

    December 18, 2006

  • well, andrew, my father was a quirky man.

    December 18, 2006

  • Yeah, andrew.simone's right. It means "all messed up." As in, "Well, your grandpa tried to put the knob back on the cupboard, but instead he broke the hinge and now it's all cattywampus."

    December 18, 2006

  • It just means all-gone-to-hell-screwed-up.

    December 29, 2006

  • This word isn't used nearly enough. I can't think of a better way to put a quirky spin on an otherwise bad situation than to label it "cattywampus".

    August 14, 2007

  • I think of this word as having a similar connotation to "wabi sabi," a phrase/concept which i read about long ago in Utne, which means "the beauty of imperfection." Life is asymmetrical, out of alignment, askew, f'd up, etc. I find a certain comfort in appreciating that state of affairs.

    March 21, 2008

  • I've never heard it or read it. Until here of course, given that Wordie is a kind of Old Bazaar of Cairo for these kinds of terms :-)

    March 21, 2008

  • Haha! Great description of Wordie, bilby. Now, what will you give me for this fine word?

    March 21, 2008

  • It's spelled catawampus

    September 10, 2008

  • Not cattiewampus?

    September 10, 2008

  • Actually, CK, dictionaries cite both spellings. :-) And as a bonus, I found skewampus--apparently a combination of askew and cattywampus.

    gangerh: Haha! It took me a second....

    September 10, 2008

  • OED2 lists it under catawampous, which dates from 1840. Google Books shows seven examples of that spelling in the 1840s, then no more. It was replaced by "catawampus", first recorded in 1843. Judging from Google Books, "cattywampus" originates as a pronunciation guide for "catawampus" in 1901, but isn't used in its own right until the 1930s. Since then it's slowly been gaining ground on "catawampus", but hasn't caught it yet.

    Perhaps this is a case of spelling capture in action, influenced by catty-corner.

    By the way, let us not forget the galliwampus.

    September 10, 2008

  • meaning twisted or not straight. I am a nurse and use it when I go straighten my patients out in bed. I tell them they are all "cattywampus". I think I picked this word up when I lived in Maine.

    July 26, 2009

  • More info here:

    September 13, 2011