Cultural Watch

catawampus – Word of the Day


Catawampus / kat-uh-WOM-puh s / adjective

1. Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. askew; awry.
2. Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. positioned diagonally; cater-cornered.


Dear me, everything has gone catawampus with me this week. I spoiled the bread, as you know too well–and I scorched the doctor’s best shirt bosom–and I broke your big platter.
— L. M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams, 1917


Catawampus is of uncertain origin, though its first element, cata- likely derives from the adverb cater meaning “diagonally.” The second element may be related to the Scottish term wampish meaning “to wave about or flop to and fro.” It entered English in the mid-1800s.

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