Printable Version
Pronunciation: kæt-fish Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. A scaleless freshwater bottom-feeding fish with long tactile barbels and a barb on its back of the order Siluriformes. 2. Someone who sets up a false profile on a social network for fraudulent or otherwise deceptive purposes.

Notes: Today's is an old word with a brand new meaning. It comes with all the derivations of fish: catfishy, catfisher, and catfishery—none of which my spellchecker likes. However it may be used in both its meanings as a verb.

In Play: CatfishSince catfish are bottom feeders, they are not liked by many Southern fishermen. My father's recipe for catfish is to nail them by the head to a piece of 2x4 stud, bake for 20 or 30 minutes, take the catfish off the board, and eat the board. However, this new meaning is just arising, but it's already available as a verb: "Aly Katz catfished Phil Anders so well, he thought that she was in love with him."

Word History: Today's Good Word is easily analyzed as cat + fish, so called because their barbels resemble cats' whiskers. Cat was borrowed from Late Latin cattus, which went on to become French chat, Italian gatto, and Portuguese and Spanish gato. It entered Old Germanic as kattus, which turns up as English cat, German Katze, Danish and Dutch kat, and Norwegian katt. Apparently Latin borrowed the word from some Afro-Asiatic language like Berber kadiska, Nubian kadis, or Arabic qitt "tomcat".

Fish came from PIE pisk- "fish", still visible in Latin piscis and Italian pesce, less so in Spanish pez and French poisson. It is well represented in Germanic languages, like English fish, Dutch vis, German Fisch, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish fisk. (Now a nod of recognition to Susan Maynard for spotting the new usage of today's old Good Word and sharing.)

Dr. Goodword,

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