- one who imitates or copies another’s actions, appearance, or ideas.
- mimicking the behaviors, words, or actions.
- taking or repeating the concept, ideas, or designs.
- attempt to achieve the same fame, success, or notoriety.
- one who lacks creativity or originality.
- also describe a criminal act carried out in imitation of another.
- The startup accused the competitor of being a copycat, claiming they stole their business model and product ideas.
- Parents should avoid praising copycat behaviors in children and instead reward them for coming up with their own creative solutions.
- The fashion company filed a lawsuit against the retailer, alleging that their new line of handbags were obvious copycat versions of the original designs.
- Fans accused the singer of being a copycat, saying her latest hits sounded too similar to songs by another popular artist.
- Businesses should avoid hiring known copycats who simply mimic the work of others rather than coming up with fresh, innovative ideas.
The idiom “copycat” originated as a reference to someone who copies another’s actions or ideas without adding anything original. The term likely developed as follows:
The word “cat” has long been used as a derogatory term for a person, meaning someone who is sly, mean, or cowardly. This usage dates back to at least the late 1400s, originating from the Middle English word “katt” for a cat.
During the late 1800s, the emergence of new manufacturing and printing technologies led to increased concern about plagiarism and copying. The term “copycat” then arose to refer to someone who copies the exact work or product of another.
The first known documented use of the term “copycat” in print was by Constance Cary Harrison in her 1887 memoir Bar Harbor, as you mentioned. She used it to describe boys who copied exactly what had already been printed.
From this beginning, the idiom “copycat” spread to refer more broadly to anyone who copies the actions, ideas, or work of another in an imitative rather than original manner. The negative connotation of “cat” as a person combined with the act of copying gave us the familiar idiom “copycat” to describe a mimic or imitator.