AskDefine | Define grimalkin

User Contributed Dictionary



From grey + malkin; "grey-haired cat" or "grey-haired woman"


  • /grɪˈmæl.kɪn/|/grɪˈmɔːl.kɪn/


  1. A cat, especially an elderly female.
  2. An old, bad-tempered woman; a crone.



  • 1606 - William Shakespeare, Macbeth act i, scene 1
    Witch: I come, Gray-Malkin.
  • 1749 — Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, book II, ch 4
    As fair Grimalkin, who, though the youngest of the feline family, degenerates not in ferocity from the elder branches of her house, and though inferior in strength, is equal in fierceness to the noble tiger himself, when a little mouse, whom it hath long tormented in sport, escapes from her clutches for a while, frets, scolds, growls, swears; but if the trunk, or box, behind which the mouse lay hid be again removed, she flies like lightning on her prey, and, with envenomed wrath, bites, scratches, mumbles, and tears the little animal.
  • 1836 - Washington Irving, Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey, Abbotsford
    Among the other important and privileged members of the household who figured in attendance at the dinner, was a large gray cat, who, I observed, was regaled from time to time with tit-bits from the table. This sage grimalkin was a favorite of both master and mistress, and slept at night in their room.
  • 1847 - Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, chapter III
    Two benches, shaped in sections of a circle, nearly enclosed the hearth; on one of these I stretched myself, and Grimalkin mounted the other. We were both of us nodding ere any one invaded our retreat, and then it was Joseph, shuffling down a wooden ladder that vanished in the roof, through a trap: the ascent to his garret, I suppose. He cast a sinister look at the little flame which I had enticed to play between the ribs, swept the cat from its elevation, and bestowing himself in the vacancy, commenced the operation of stuffing a three-inch pipe with tobacco.
  • 1927 - H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
    Very quietly therefore did Randolph Carter steal to the edge of the wood and send the cry of the cat over the starlit fields. And a great grimalkin in a nearby cottage took up the burden and relayed it across leagues of rolling meadow to warriors large and small, black, grey, tiger, white, yellow, and mixed, and it echoed through Nir and beyond the Skai even into Ulthar, and Ulthar's numerous cats called in chorus and fell into a line of march.


a cat
an old woman
  • Spanish: bruja

Extensive Definition

Grimalkin and Greymalkin have various uses:


Grimalkin was the name of the witches' cat in Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
A grimalkin is old or evil-looking she-cat. The term stems from "gray" (the color) plus "malkin", an archaic word for demon. Scottish legend makes reference to the grimalkin as a faery cat which dwells in the highlands.
The term/name may first come from Beware the Cat (published 1570) by William Baldwin, who relates the story of Grimalkin's death. According to its editors, the story, and thus the name, originates with Baldwin. It is also spelled Grimmalkin or Grimolochin.
During the late Middle Ages, the name grimalkin - and cats in general - became associated with the devil and witchcraft. Women tried as witches in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were often accused of having a familiar, frequently a grimalkin.
In Tom Jones, Henry Fielding relates a story from a 17th-century collection of fables in which Grimalkin is a cat whose owner falls passionately in love with her. He prays to Venus, who changes the cat into a woman. Lying in bed, however, she spots a mouse and leaps up after it, "Puss, even when she's a Madam, will be a mouser still."
Nathaniel Hawthorne, in The House of Seven Gables, Ch. XVI, mentions "...a strange grimalkin... was seen by Hepzibah while she was looking into the back-yard garden for Clifford." In the next sentence he gives definition to grimalkin as "...this cat seemed to have more than ordinary mischief in his thoughts,..."
The Godolphin Arabian, one of the stallions that helped found the line of Thoroughbred racing horses, was very close to a companion cat called Grimalkin. (Racehorses tend to be very high-strung and nervous animals, and often form a close bond with a companion animal; the tactic of trying to sabotage a race by abducting a racehorse's companion animal the night before the race is thought to have given rise to the term "getting someone's goat.")
In the television show "Batman", and later "The New Adventures of Batman", Catwoman (played by Julie Newmar) operated the Grimalkin Novelty Company, at the corner of Cattail Lane and Nine Lives Alley.
In the 2008 series "Power Rangers: Jungle Fury", the pizza parlor Jungle Karma Pizza, which serves as a social hangout for the show's main cast, houses a pinball machine going by the name Grimalkin Gauntlet.
The governess/witch in the novel The Midnight Folk by John Masefield has two familiars named Greymalkin and Blackmalkin.
A grimalkin is briefly mentioned in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, in which sentient cats play a major role.

Other uses

A Grimalkin is also found in Heathcliff's manor in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

See also

External sources

Baldwin, William. Beware the Cat: the First English Novel Ed. William A Ringler, Jr, and Michael Flachmann. Huntington Library: 1988.

External links

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Cheshire cat, Chinchilla cat, Jezebel, Maltese cat, alley cat, beldam, bitch-kitty, blue cat, calico cat, cat, feline, fury, gib, gib-cat, hag, hellcat, hellhag, house cat, kit, kitling, kitten, kitty, kitty-cat, mouser, puss, pussy, pussycat, she-devil, she-wolf, silver cat, siren, tabby, tabby cat, termagant, tiger cat, tigress, tom, tomcat, tortoise-shell cat, virago, vixen, wildcat, witch
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