‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 4, 2023

Are you curious about what ‘curiosity killed the cat’ means? In this article, we’ll answer that, plus you’ll learn the definition and origin and see examples of how to use it in a sentence correctly.

In short:

  • ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ means that you shouldn’t be so curious about everything all the time because it could get you in trouble.

Essentially, it means that being too curious can cause problems for you, so you should mind your own business.

What Does ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’ Mean?

‘Curiosity killed the cat’ is a common English idiom that means you shouldn’t interfere in matters that don’t concern you, or you could end up in trouble. This phrase is a common warning for people not to meddle in other people’s business because you never know what kind of a situation you’re getting yourself into.

For example:

  • If you hear a dangerous piece of gossip and you want to find out more information, someone might warn you that ‘curiosity killed the cat’ to prevent you from digging for more information.

In season 13, episode 9 of Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith begins her narration with the quote:

Curiosity killed the cat. It’s also killed a lot of ancient Greeks, when Pandora had to open that box…

The phrase is basically used to warn someone to stop doing whatever they’re doing (like snooping around in someone else’s business) that could get them in trouble.

Where Does ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’ Come From?

The idiom ‘curiosity killed the cat’ comes from a 1509 play written by Ben Johnson. It was adapted by William Shakespeare.

The original wording of the phrase is:

Care killed the cat.

The phrase didn’t become ‘curiosity killed the cat’ until 1873 when it was included in a book called:

  • A Handbook of Proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakespearean, and Scriptural.

The phrase also appeared in Family Mottoes by James Allan Mair.

In 1905, it’s believed to have been recorded as:

Curiosity killed a cat; but it came back.

This probably played on the belief that cats have nine lives.

And in 1912, people said:

Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

Examples of ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’ in Sentences

How would you use ‘curiosity killed the cat’ in a sentence?

Let’s see some examples: 

  • I have a bad feeling about snooping around in anyone’s things. After all, curiosity killed the cat.
  • My favorite teacher, Miss Summers, always said, ‘Curiosity killed the cat,’ whenever a student was being a little too nosy.
  • When I wanted to check out an old haunted house on my street, my friend replied, ‘Curiosity killed the cat, you know.’ But I didn’t really care; I wanted to see if it was actually haunted for myself.
  • Every Halloween, we usually sit at home and eat caramel. Still, this year, my brother suggested we go to that abandoned warehouse and play with the Ouija board to see if anything had happened. I told him, ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’
  • My sister was dying to know what happened on my girl’s trip, but I told her, ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ And then I added, ‘Plus, curiosity killed the cat,’ just to tease her.
  • ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ is my dad’s favorite thing to say when he doesn’t want to answer our questions. He uses it so much we’re all getting really tired of hearing it at this point.
  • When I asked my mom about my surprise party, she answered, ‘Curiosity killed the cat!’ And then she made me leave the room so she could continue planning my surprise.
  • When I used to ask my mom what Santa was getting me for Christmas, she would say, ‘Curiosity killed the cat! You’ll just have to wait and see.’

Other Ways to Say ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’ 

What other ways could you say, ‘Curiosity killed the cat’? 

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Beware
  • Watch it
  • Mind your business
  • It’s best to mind one’s own business
  • Curiosity can be dangerous
  • Don’t try to find out
  • Don’t go digging around in someone else’s business
  • Inquisitiveness can be dangerous
  • Don’t be so curious
  • Don’t be too curious
  • The less you know, the better
  • Stop asking questions
  • Leave it alone
  • Be careful what you wish for
  • Being curious can get you in trouble
  • Discretion is the better part of valor
  • Curiosity can lead to one’s downfall
  • He who inquires soon perishes
  • Asking questions can lead to danger

 Concluding Thoughts on ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’

To recap, we learned the following:

  • ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ means that you shouldn’t be so curious about everything all the time because it could get you in trouble.

Remember, it means that being too curious can cause problems for you, so you should mind your own business.

If you ever get stuck on anything, feel free to come back and review what you learned. You can also come back to browse our library of content on idioms. You might find it useful as you’re learning the language, as it can help you get familiar with other idioms you might see throughout your journey to learning English.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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