a. Ruminant mammals of the genus Bos that have been domesticated and are often raised for meat and dairy products. Cows, steers, bulls, and oxen are cattle.
b. Similar wild or domesticated bovine animals, such as anoas or gaurs.
2. Humans, especially when viewed contemptuously or as a mob.
[Middle English catel, property, livestock, from Old North French, from Old Provençal capdal, from Medieval Latin capitāle, holdings, funds, from neuter of Latin capitālis, principal, original, from caput, head; see kaput- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.