Curiosity Killed The Cat Meaning, Definition, Examples, Origin, Synonyms

FILE - A cát runs inkhổng lồ a bullfighting ring in Bogota, Colombia, on January 28, 2018. Maybe it was curious about the bullfight. (AFPhường. PHOTO / Raul Arboleda)


Now, the VOA Learning English program Words và Their Stories.

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Our weekly program is about the words, expressions và idioms we use in American English.

In any language, idioms can be difficult. Sometimes, you need to know a lot of ‘cultural backstory’ -- the meaning behind the words -- to lớn understvà these sayings. And using them the right way can cause problems for English learners.

But bởi not worry. Even people who grew up in the United States speaking English have problems with some of these idioms.

On another Words and Their Stories, we told how the idiom "blood is thicker than water" is misunderstood. This week we talk about another expression Americans usually get wrong.

That expression is: Curiosity killed the cat.

I know. It does not sound very nice. But trust me. It’s not that bad.


"You better not be talking about me!" Well, at least his face seems khổng lồ be saying that.

First, let"s start with the word “curious.”

The word curious means lớn want khổng lồ know things you don"t know; to lớn investigate. So to lớn be curious is not a bad thing. Adults & teachers often praise children with curious minds for asking questions -- sometimes a lot of questions!

Curious people can be very interesting. They want lớn know more about the world around them. Another way of saying curious is inquisitive. The verb "inquire" means to lớn ask one or more questions.

However, prying is a khung of curiosity but not in a good way. Someone who is said to lớn be prying inkhổng lồ other people’s business wants lớn know about things that bởi vì not concern them. And often prying is an effort to lớn find out secrets by looking for them in improper ways.

We often use it this way. We say to someone, “Look, I don’t mean to lớn pry …” & then we go ahead and pry by asking them a personal question that is none of our business.

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Sometimes when we pry we are simply concerned about someone. But it can still start trouble. So, as we said, curiosity is usually a good thing. But it can also put you in harm"s way.

"Curiosity killed the cat" is an idiom we use to lớn warn people. Being curious can get you inkhổng lồ trouble. We often use this expression when others ask prying questions.

People asking such questions are trying to lớn find out something that is none of their business. They are being nosy.

Okay, so now, let"s hear an example of a nosy person asking prying questions by putting their nose where it does not belong.

So, last night I saw Tom out with a woman & it wasn’t Jessica!

Really? They haven’t broke up, have they?

I don’t think so. You know, I’m having lunch with Jessica tomorrow. Maybe I’ll ask her.

I wouldn’t vì chưng that if I were you.

Why? Aren’t you curious?

A little. But it’s not a good idea lớn stick your nose into other people"s business.

I’m not being nosy. I’m just … curious.

Well, you know what they say, “Curiosity killed the cát.” Just leave it alone.

Ahh … maybe you’re right.

Here’s the problem. “Curiosity killed the cat" is only part of the expression. The whole idiom goes like this: "Curiosity killed the cát, but satisfaction brought it baông xã."

That last part really changes the meaning. The cát gets khổng lồ live sầu. Curiosity does not kill it. So, we use the first half of the saying as a warning: Be careful of the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation! But the second part -- "satisfaction brought it back" -- shows that the risk might be worth it.

Not many English speakers know that in the original idiom the mèo survives. But now you do! In the end, the way most Americans use the idiom is as a warning và they simply say "curiosity killed the cat."

And that"s the kết thúc of Words & Their Stories for this week.

I"m Anmãng cầu Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. The song at the over is The Cure singing “Love sầu Cats.”

We missed you hissed the lovecatsWe missed you hissed the lovecats

We"re so wonderfully wonderfully wonderfullyWonderfully pretty!

Oh you know that I"d vày anything for you...


Words in This Story

idiom n. an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

inquisitive adj. tending to lớn ask questions : having a desire lớn know or learn more