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Reading "Salve feles" recently, and thinking that this actually meant "Hello cat" -- and not, as I assumed it was intended to, "Hello kitty" -- I began wondering how we could say something like "kitty" in Latin, i.e., a cute, small or young cat, a kitten.

Now, we do have the diminutive catulus. It's a young animal, a whelp. It is not specific to cats, and Lewis & Short give an impressive list of animals it has been used for. By itself, it often stands for a young dog, a puppy. So that does not look like a good fit to me. Smith & Hall suggest catulus felinus for "kitten," but this is hardly a very endearing expression.

With that in mind, are there any suggestions of how I could say "What a sweet kitty," or indeed "Hello Kitty"?

What do you think of felulus (-a)? E.g. Euge, felula quam pulchella! I have not found a single occurrence with Google, but it should be understandable enough.

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    Maybe felecula on the (non-Classical) analogy of moles : molecula?
    – TKR
    Jan 3, 2023 at 18:04
  • Ah let me introduce you to a very cute video where I heard of the word kitty the first time. Apr 4, 2023 at 7:26

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One option would be cattulus, from cattus (also spelled catus). The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources has an entry for cattulus:

murelegus, cātus, cătulus [gl.: chytte], ‥ hic ~us, a kytylyng WW.

(Logeion)

I'm not quite sure how to interpret the ~, but I think the spelling in the original source was actually "catulus", and "cattulus" is an editorial normalization. At least, "catulus" is how it appears in other documents I have seen. It looks like WW stands for "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies".

Going in reverse, by searching the word "kytylyng" online I found several alternative Latin-Middle English glosses that can be seen at the Middle English Compendium ( University of Michigan), such as catillus, catunculus, catellus, catulaster. I imagine that these also might be normalized if used by a modern writer to the forms cattillus, cattunculus, cattellus, cattulaster.

As you can see from these, in practice many different kinds of diminutives can be formed in Latin.

However, according to the most typical or "regular" patterns, as described in The Formation of Latin Diminutives of Nouns and Adjectives by Ian Andreas Miller, fēlēs/fēlis would be expected to produce not fēlula, but fēlēcula or fēlicula (§VII. "Mixed I-Stems: Parisyllables with Nom. Sg. in -ĒS").

I have not found any diminutive of fēlēs/fēlis listed in any dictionary or attested in any historical document. Fēlēcula occurs in a modern Latin blog Mema Interretialia "Internet Memes in Latin" ("Adorabilis felecula! Adorable kitten!") (September 24, 2012). The same author previously made a blog post that considered the options fēlicula, cattulus, cattula ("Quomodo "Kitten" Latine Dicitur?", Diaphanitas, Feb. 24th, 2006). See also the Latin Discussion forum thread Kitten (Dec 11, 2007).

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