Top cat names in the Late Middle Ages: Gib and Tib

In England during the Late Middle Ages, the most common names for cats were Gib (pronounced with a hard g) and Tib.

Typically, Gib was used for male cats and Tib for female cats.

Gib is a diminutive of the name Gilbert. Tib is either a play on Gib or a short form of Tibert, as in Tibert the Cat, a feline character found in Reynard the Fox stories.

Geoffrey Chaucer mentions a cat named Gibbe in his The Romaunt of the Rose, written in the late 1300s.

The play Gammer Gurton’s Needle, written during the 1550s, features a (female) cat named Gib:

My nee’le, alas! Ich lost it, Hodge, what time Ich me up-hasted
To save the milk set up for thee, which Gib our cat hath wasted.

The name Gib was so ubiquitous that male cats were called Gib-cats. We might still be using that term today if not for “The Life and Adventures of a Cat” (1760), a popular tale that featured a cat named Tom. Tom inspired the term Tom-cat, which eventually replaced Gib-cat.


Image: Adapted from Cats August 2010-2 by Alvesgaspar under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.