Printable Version
Pronunciation: shê-toi-yênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Having a changeable luster, like a cat's eye or the gem of the same name (cat's eye, as illustrated below).

Notes: Meow! This most beautiful word found its way into The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English, but somehow not into the Good Word series. The noun is chatoyance or, should you ever need an extra syllable, chatoyancy.

In Play: Today's good adjective may be used positively: "William Arami loved the ripple of her hair, which became chatoyant in the sun light." Since it carries all the connotations of cat, it may also be used negatively: "Your promises have a chatoyant luster that does not recommend them."

Word History: Today's Good Word was originally the French present participle of chatoyer "to shimmer like cats' eyes", based on chat "cat", inherited from Vulgar (street) Latin cattus. The word appeared in Europe as Latin catta, probably borrowed from Byzantine Greek katta and was in general use on the continent by 700 AD, replacing Latin feles, as in English feline. It is probably ultimately Afro-Asiatic, where we find Nubian kadis and Berber kadiska "cat". There is also Arabic qitt "tomcat", perhaps from the same source. Anyway we find German and Dutch kater "tom-cat", English cat, Russian kot "tom-cat", Lithuanian kate—all borrowed either from Latin or Greek. Finnish katti was borrowed from Lithuanian.

Dr. Goodword,

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