Definition of tabby in US English:



  • 1A cat whose fur is mottled or streaked with dark stripes.

    • ‘On my way home I was accosted by a mewing tabby and white shorthair cat that proceeded to follow me home.’
    • ‘Tumble, an adorable gray tabby, was a member of our family from the time she was born.’
    • ‘The cat was an orange tabby with amber eyes that were narrowed with anger.’
    • ‘While she stroked the brown tabby, she reflected on the day ahead.’
    • ‘Mavis and Stella aren't happy about my false start of five minutes ago, and the tabbies are sitting side by side, noses in the air, on the middle of the kitchen counter.’
    • ‘The cat's eyes were an extraordinarily bright shade of blue, and its coat was marked with white stripes similar to that of a tabby, but tipped with the black face, tail, and feet points of a Siamese.’
    • ‘They were all similar to Juniper, but each came in a different breed or color; some were ginger, some were tabbies, Manx even… Every kind of cat.’
    • ‘I noticed two cats curled up on the edge of the bed, one orange and one gray, both tabbies, and asked, ‘Is that your cat or a family cat?’’
    • ‘Debbie has fallen in love with a beautiful dark coloured tabby who, like most of the others, still has two weeks to go before he's ready for adoption.’
    • ‘‘It takes about two years for the coat to come in completely on colors other than tabbies,’ says one cat association.’
    • ‘There are tabbies and toms in white, black, grey and ginger.’
    • ‘Skittles, an orange tabby, was left behind during a summer stay in southern Wisconsin.’
    • ‘A grey tabby cat with white legs and wearing a red collar with a bell was found in the Hawthorn area of the town over the New Year period.’
    • ‘Another was a brown tabby, she was a very sweet kitten.’
    • ‘With great reluctance, she handed over the little grey tabby.’
    • ‘The cat could be a tabby, a tortoiseshell, maybe even a Siamese.’
    • ‘In the next suite was a man, a woman and a dark grey tabby cat.’
    • ‘We're very very proud, and he beat a very merited beautiful silver tabby.’
    • ‘Princess, a gray tabby, ran away, the bell on her pink collar that bore her name jingling.’
    cat, domestic cat, wild cat, alley cat, kitten
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    1. 1.1US informal Any domestic cat.
      • ‘Unfortunately, the odds are less than favourable for this overgrown tabby.’
      • ‘Cats and dogs run the risk of falling victim to accidents just as much as humans do, and when an operation is required, your adorable little tabby might need an urgent blood transfusion.’
      • ‘Even the most beloved mutt or tabby is deemed virtually worthless: rescued from an animal shelter for a nominal fee, they can be ‘replaced’ at the same expense.’
  • 2A fabric with a watered pattern, typically silk.

    • ‘Some of these samples are dated to the Han times; they range from lightweight tabby and gauze, some plain and some printed, to medium-textured fabrics such as damask.’
  • 3A plain weave.

  • 4A type of concrete made of lime, shells, gravel, and stones, which dries very hard.


  • (of a cat) gray or brownish in color and streaked with dark stripes.

    • ‘Then there was the surgery cat, a tough little tabby, much like Harry Cat except his tabby stripes were broken into small pieces by the intrusion of some foreign gene in his heritage.’
    • ‘Waiting for her at the gate was the neighbour's tabby tomcat who bore the unoriginal name of Tiger.’
    • ‘The tabby kitten made a soft mewing sound and rolled out of the playful fight.’
    • ‘He then looked over towards the tabby kitten and touched it.’
    • ‘Seeing no one save a small tabby kitten lying curled upon a red plush sofa, I took the chance to look around.’
    • ‘He is an exceptionally cute, friendly and talkative young cat, with classic blotchy tabby coat.’
    • ‘I glanced over to where he was looking and saw a creature like a tiger, but with tabby coloring instead of the traditional black and orange stripes.’
    • ‘He was a big white cat with tabby patches and he was like a member of the family.’
    • ‘His orange tabby fur was normal among street toms.’
    • ‘A small, tabby kitten walked out, sniffing the air.’
    • ‘She went back to help the cat and recognised a tiny bit of tabby fur that hadn't been burnt off, and realised the cat was her own.’
    • ‘Two little bunnies owe their lives to Tess, the tabby kitten.’
    • ‘The two smallest kittens looked alike they had the same tabby fur, the smallest of the cats also matched as they had the same caramel coat and the biggest cats had the same fluffy white fur.’
    • ‘Just outside their door, three Cats probed their defenses, a young notch-eared orange-haired tom and two tabby females.’
    • ‘She named another Ru, for no reason, she had a tabby coat with a tan stripe across her nose.’
    • ‘Though the tigers involved are usually of the orange colour, white tigers have been mated with lions to produce white Ligers and golden tabby tigers have been mated with lions to produce golden Ligers.’
    • ‘When I was young, my aunt took a kitten from that cat, a little tabby one, before she left - I hope she found somewhere more peaceful with it.’
    • ‘Her grandma promptly picked up the water jug, and poured it through the screen, onto the little tabby kitten.’
    • ‘Their coloration is similar to that of a tabby domestic cat and makes them difficult to see in their forested habitats.’
    speckled, blotched, blotchy, spotted, spotty, dotted, streaked, streaky, mottled, marbled, flecked, freckled, stippled, piebald, skewbald, pied, brindled, brindle, marled
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Late 16th century (denoting a kind of silk taffeta, originally striped, later with a watered finish: see tabby (sense 2 of the noun)): from French tabis, based on Arabic al-‘Attābiyya, the name of the quarter of Baghdad where tabby was manufactured.