Cattywampus is a curious colloquial American word doubling as meaning "diagonal" and "askew". The etymology is a mongrel. The "diagonal" bit may have been influenced by catty-corner, and wampus could have been southern slang for "flail", but then there's a fictional creature called the wampus cat and another called a catamount. Then again, wampus might derive from the Scots word wampish, meaning "twist" and catty may have been a formation from cater, not the one you think but an obsolete term for "diagonal" also present in catty-corner. It has also been suggested that the whole thing was made up to sound like a funny yet classical word, with catty possibly harkening back to Greek kata and the second bit just sounding funny. Just as nobody can agree on the etymology, no one seems to concur on the spelling; in addition to cattywampus, there are existing forms such as catawampus, kittywampus, catiwampus, catawampous, caddywhompas, and much, much more. This is because cattywampus seems to be a two hundred year old slang word passed down verbally, and no one can agree on standardization. Usage began in the early nineteenth century, peaked in the mid twentieth century, and has been increasing in the twenty-first century so far.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.