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Curiosity Killed the Cat: Origin and Meaning

Being too curious or inquisitive can lead you into a dangerous situation.
Curiosity killed the catThe original expression was ‘care killed the cat’ recorded in 1598. In Early Modern English ‘care’ meant ‘worry or sorrow’ rather than the meaning we are familiar with ‘look after or take care of’. The expression ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is usually used when attempting to stop someone asking unwanted questions and refers to the fact that a cat is said to have nine lives. Cats are also notoriously inquisitive, and they always get themselves into trouble. That earliest citation recorded in 1852 refers to a woman rather than a horse: Curiosity has not been viewed as a good thing throughout history. Saint Augustine wrote in AD 397, that before creating heaven and earth, God “fashioned hell for the inquisitive”, which means that curious people are doing something wrong and will go to hell! This seems very shocking to our modern eyes. John Clarke, in 1639 suggested that “He that [pries] into every cloud may be struck with a thunderbolt”. The word “pry” means to ask too many questions about someone else’s business

What do you think is down that dark street? – I would rather not find out. Curiosity killed the cat.

That reporter has been asking a lot of questions and the boss doesn’t like it. Curiosity killed the cat.

My son stuck his finger into the electrical outlet and got a huge shock! He said he wanted to find out how it would feel. It’s a good thing he wasn’t hurt! Curiosity killed the cat.

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