Exploring the Origins and Meaning of the Phrase ‘Cat’s Pajamas’

Key Takeaways

The phrase ‘cat’s pajamas’ is a fascinating piece of American vernacular that has its roots in the Roaring Twenties. This article will delve into the origins, meaning, and usage of this quirky expression. By the end of this read, you’ll not only understand what it means when someone says you’re the ‘cat’s pajamas’, but you’ll also have a glimpse into the colorful world of 1920s American slang.

The Roaring Twenties and the Birth of ‘Cat’s Pajamas’

The 1920s, also known as the Roaring Twenties, was a decade of significant cultural shifts in the United States. This era saw the birth of jazz, the flapper subculture, and a unique lexicon that still captivates us today. One such phrase that emerged during this time was ‘cat’s pajamas’.

The phrase was first popularized by a cartoonist named Tad Dorgan. Known for his creative use of language, Dorgan had a knack for inventing phrases that quickly caught on with the public. ‘Cat’s pajamas’ was one of his many creations, and it quickly became a popular term during the Jazz Age.

What Does ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ Mean?

So, what does it mean if someone calls you the ‘cat’s pajamas’? In short, it’s a compliment. The phrase is used to describe someone or something that is excellent, impressive, or attractive. If you’re the ‘cat’s pajamas’, you’re the best of the best, the bee’s knees, the top dog.

While the phrase might seem nonsensical at first glance, it makes more sense when you consider the cultural context of the 1920s. This was a time when unconventional, playful language was in vogue, and phrases like ‘cat’s pajamas’ perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the age.

‘Cat’s Pajamas’ in Modern Usage

While ‘cat’s pajamas’ might not be as commonly used today as it was in the 1920s, the phrase has not completely disappeared from our lexicon. It’s often used in a nostalgic or playful context, and it’s a favorite among those who have a fondness for vintage slang.

So, the next time you want to compliment someone in a unique and memorable way, why not tell them they’re the ‘cat’s pajamas’? It’s a fun, quirky phrase that’s sure to make them smile.


The phrase ‘cat’s pajamas’ is more than just a piece of vintage slang. It’s a linguistic artifact that offers a glimpse into the cultural zeitgeist of the Roaring Twenties. It’s a testament to the creativity and playfulness of language, and a reminder that words and phrases can do more than just convey meaning – they can also capture the spirit of an age.

Written by Martin Cole

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