cattle

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English[edit]

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An angus farm in the US.

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English catel, from Anglo-Norman catel (personal property), from Old Northern French (compare French cheptel, Old French chetel, chatel, also English chattel) from Medieval Latin capitāle, from Latin capitālis (of the head), from caput (head) + -alis (-al).

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

cattle (countable and uncountable, plural cattle) (usually used as plural)

  1. Domesticated bovine animals (cows, bulls, steers etc).
    Do you want to raise cattle?
  2. Certain other livestock, such as sheep, pigs or horses.
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities:
      The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guard suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coachman was sure of nothing but the horses; as to which cattle he could with a clear conscience have taken his oath on the two Testaments that they were not fit for the journey.
  3. (pejorative, figuratively) People who resemble domesticated bovine animals in behavior or destiny.
    • 1961, Gerald Hanley, The Journey Homeward[1], page 155:
      "I always knew it, but I always denied it, because I'm one of them, and I'm like them." ¶"We're just cattle," the Prison Governor said, relieved now.
  4. (obsolete, English law, sometimes countable) chattel
    goods and cattle
    • 1552, Parliament of England, An Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer, and Service in the Church, and Administration of the Sacraments[2]:
      That then every person so offending and convict, shall for his third offence, forfeit to our Sovereign Lady the Queen, all his goods and cattles, and shall suffer imprisonment during his life.
    • 1684, Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, published 1856:
      1684 July. Mistris Dorothy Gray, Adminnestratrix of the Goods and Cattles of Mr Edward Gray, late of Plymouth, deceased, []
  5. (uncountable, rare) Used in restricted contexts to refer to the meat derived from cattle.
    • a. 1964, Stephen Henry Roberts, The Squatting Age in Australia, 1835–1847,[3] Melbourne University Press (1964), page 315:
      The temptation of a lone white man was too great for any gathering of myall-natives, and sheep-fat and cattle-steak seemed there for the spearing, so that a stockman always ran the risk of attack, especially if his shepherds interfered with the native women.
    • a. 1978, Barry Hannah, “Eating Wife and Friends”, in Airships, Grove Press (1994), ISBN 978-0-8021-3388-5, page 137:
      “But you cooked a human being and ate him,” say I.
      “I couldn’t help it,” says she. “I remember the cattle steaks of the old days, the juicy pork, the dripping joints of lamb, the venison.”
    • 1996 April 3, Emmett Jordan, "Re: AR activist arrested for spreading 'Mad Cow' disease in US", in rec.food.veg, Usenet:
      Believe it or not Big Mac is one of the ultra radicals who provide fast food cattle burgers to interstate vehicles who drive all over the place providing scraps for rats, cats, flies, etc, so that the Mad Cow Disease might spread even faster than it would otherwise do.
    • 2005 June 25, "Serge" (username), "Re: WOW!!!! WHALE BURGERS...... McDonalds Don't You Get Any Ideas", in aus.politics and other newsgroups, Usenet:
      If a particular whale species isn't endangered, then there's not a blind bit of difference between butchering them or cattle.
      Whale burgers. Cattle burgers......no difference!

Usage notes[edit]

There is no singular form for "cattle", and the words for the particular types of cattle are used: "bull", "calf" etc.

  • There are five cows and a calf in that herd of cattle.

Where the type is unknown, "cow" is often used (although properly a cow is only an adult female).

  • Is that a cow in the road?

When used as an uncountable noun, the phrase "head of cattle" is used for countable quantities of cattle.

  • He sold 50 head of cattle last year.

However, "cattle" is often used as an ordinary plural rather than as as an uncountable noun.

  • I have fifteen cattle.

In some circumstances the uncountable form is not used.

  • How many cattle? (not how much cattle?).

Quotations[edit]

Synonyms[edit]

  • (domesticated bovine animals): Bos (scientific)
  • (people who resemble domesticated bovine animals in behavior or destiny): sheeple (pejorative)

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

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See also[edit]

Anagrams[edit]