Cattywampus means crooked, out of alignment, sideways, crazy, askew. Cattywampus first recorded use was in 1830-1840 and it is thought to be a combination of cata (diagonally) and wampus, which derives from the Scottish wampish (to flop around). Cattywampus is also an alternate spelling of the word catawampus (askew, awry, cater-corner).
Cattywampus is very much an American word being used primarily in the Midland and Southern US. Cattywampus is a delightfully fun way to describe something – I mean saying “My desk is all cattywampus.” is so much more colorful than simply saying “My desk is messy.”. One could also say “I lost my way and walk cattywampus across town.” or “The structure of this essay is all cattywampus and full of grammatical errors.”.
The shelves of the bookstore where overly crammed, everything cattywampus and confusion…a perfect slice of paradise since you never knew just when you’d stumble upon a treasure…
Cattywampus was an utter joy to stumble upon. I’ve seemingly always been familiar with catty-corner, but cattywampus opens up an entirely new world of word play and charm for me. Is cattywampus a new word for you or one you grew up knowing?
Namaste ~ Ella
** If there’s a word you’d like to see added to the Word Nerd roster, please feel free to contact me or suggest it in the comments – I enjoy feedback and recommendations!