German Word of the Day – “der Kater”

Hello everyone, some cats

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will look at the meaning of the word:

“der Kater”  (pron: cah-tuh)

This word has two quite different meanings. The first one is male cat.
There’s also the word die Katze, which is the general name of the species as well as the word for a “she-cat”.  Kater is really just for males.
The other meaning of der Kater is something entirely different… or is it?
It is also furry (on your tongue) and it also involves a whole lot of sleeping and occasional vomiting on your rug. So far so cat-y. But the other Kater also includes a bad headache and some “Oh, had I only rejected those last Tequila-shots”-regrets.

You might have guessed it by now – a Kater is a hangover. But I think the context will make it very clear most of the time.
When your roommate enters the kitchen at noon and mumbles the following line:

  • Ich habe einen Kater.

he is probably hungover unless he in fact has a cat he has been hiding from you in his room and he decided to finally unveil his furry purring secret.
Now, if you’re looking for a flat and you see an ad like the following.

“Hi, ich bin Maria und ich suche einen Mitbewohner/eine
Mitbewohnerin für ein schönes, sonniges Zimmer im Hinterhaus. Es
gibt eine große Küche und ein Bad mit Badewanne. Ich bin 31 und sehr
Achso, noch etwas: ich habe einen Kater.”

What’s she telling us? That she has a hangover? That would be a weird thing to put in an ad. That would have to be a REALLY epic hangover. Like… Maria really felt like sharing. So it most likely means that Maria has a cat. But you could use the whole hangover-thing as an ice-breaker, maybe.
Now, the big question everyone is asking themselves is, of course: whyyyyyy. How can the word for male cat and the word for hangover be the same.
Well, they’re the same nowadays but the origin of the liquor-Kater is the word Katharr  (catarrh), which is some sort of throat sickness and which was a well-trusted excuse by students of the 19th century to explain their absence or their hungover-ness.
And speaking of hungover – the translation for hungover is verkatert.

  • I am sooo hungover.
  • Ich bin sooo verkatert.

A third encounter with the word Kater is Muskelkater. That is what you get when you do sports after having spent some months on the couch – your muscles are sore. So when you have aching muscles from sports in German you’d say that you have einen Muskelkater.

A recent example of the word Kater as male cat is the movie “puss in boots”… the German title of the movie (and the fairytale) is “Der gestiefelte Kater” – wow, the second word looks awful. Gshtftlsomething.  Not the most catchy title for a Hollywood flick but it does do more justice to the main protagonist and is surely the more appropriate choice for the fairytale.

Before we wrap this up, here is as usual little bit of grammar.
The plural of der Kater is die Kater and there is no changes in cases 3 and 4 when you just have one.
If you have several Kater and you give ’em something to eat, thereby putting them in case 3, you will have to add an extra ‘n’ (like n-noying).

  • Ich gebe den Katern etwas zu fressen.
  • I give the male cats something to eat.

So this was our word of the day.
Hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.