Like Something The Cat Dragged In

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Also: Like something the cat brought in

Meaning of the Idiom 'Like Something the Cat Dragged In'

A person who looks like something the cat dragged in is messy, bedraggled, dirty, or exhausted looking. 1,2


The expression is basically used to mean 'you don't look good.' It is not intended to be cruel but instead carries a touch of lightheartedness.


"As for getting up in the dead of night to feed the baby, Billy says I look like desolation–'like something the cat dragged in,' was his latest pretty compliment. - Saturday's Child (Kathleen Norris, 1914)

"He sure looks like something the cat dragged in," Hank continued. "What for you don't bury him in time?" - Saturday Evening Post (Volume 184, 1911)

"A razor," Pike pleaded. "I want to get rid of this spinach. I must look like something the cat dragged in." Everybody's Magazine (Volume 47, 1922)


Used since around 1910.

This idiom alludes to a cat bringing his prey, such as a mouse or bird, home.

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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