The origin of the English word cat (Old English catt) and its counterparts in other Germanic languages (such as German Katze), descended from Proto-Germanic *kattōn-, is controversial. It has traditionally thought to be a borrowing from Late Latin cattus, 'domestic cat', from catta (used around 75 AD by Martial), compare also Byzantine Greek κάττα, Portuguese and Spanish gato, French chat, Maltese qattus, Lithuanian katė, and Old Church Slavonic kotъ (kot'), among others. The Late Latin word is generally thought to originate from an Afro-Asiatic language, but every proposed source word has presented problems. Many references refer to "Berber" (Kabyle) kaddîska, 'wildcat', and Nubian kadīs as possible sources or cognates, but M. Lionel Bender suggesets the Nubian term is a loan from Arabic قِطَّة qiṭṭa. Jean-Paul Savignac suggests the Latin word is from an Ancient Egyptian precursor of Coptic ϣⲁⲩ šau, 'tomcat', or its feminine form suffixed with -t, but John Huehnergard says "the source [...] was clearly not Egyptian itself, where no analogous form is attested." Huehnergard opines it is "equally likely that the forms might derive from an ancient Germanic word, imported into Latin and thence to Greek and to Syriac and Arabic". Guus Kroonen also considers the word to be native to Germanic (due to morphological alternations) and Northern Europe, and suggests that it might ultimately be borrowed from Uralic, cf. Northern Sami gáđfi, 'female stoat', and Hungarian hölgy, 'stoat'; from Proto-Uralic *käďwä, 'female (of a furred animal)'. In any case, cat is a classic example of a Wanderwort.
An alternative word is English puss (extended as pussy and pussycat). Attested only from the 16th century, it may have been introduced from Dutch poes or from Low German puuskatte, related to Swedish kattepus, or Norwegian pus, pusekatt. Similar forms exist in Lithuanian puižė and Irish puisín or puiscín. The etymology of this word is unknown, but it may have simply arisen from a sound used to attract a cat.