What does the idiom "have kittens" mean?

The phrase have kittens is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of have kittens.

Meaning of "have kittens"


The idiom 'have kittens' is used to express surprise and shock. To have kittens means to become overcome with fear or extreme anxiety. It is sometimes used in a humorous way to exaggerate the severity of a situation.


The origin of this idiom is unknown. It is likely an extension of the phrase ‘scare the kittens’ which is sometimes used to describe being startled by something. ‘Have kittens’ is also thought to be a reference to the idea that cats often be alarmed by sudden or loud noises. There is also speculation that it originates from an old English expression, “Kittens in the Kitchen”, which suggests that something must be wrong in the house if kittens are present there.


In everyday usage, the idiom 'have kittens' is commonly used to describe an emotional response to a shocking, surprising or irritating situation. It can be used to express fear, worry or intense distress over a certain event or occurrence. It is often used in a humorous manner to exaggerate the severity of the situation.

Example Sentences

  • I almost had kittens when I saw how much money I had to pay for the new car.
  • My boss had kittens when I told him I was leaving the company.
  • I had kittens when I realized I had left my phone at home.

The meanings of the words in the "have kittens" idiom

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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