(countable and uncountable, plural cattle) (usually used as plural)
- Domesticated bovine animals (cows, bulls, steers etc).
- Do you want to raise cattle?
- Certain other livestock, such as sheep, pigs or horses.
- (pejorative, figuratively) People who resemble domesticated bovine animals in behavior or destiny.
- 1684, Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, published 1856:
- 1684 July. Mistris Dorothy Gray, Adminnestratrix of the Goods and Cattles of Mr Edward Gray, late of Plymouth, deceased, […]
- (uncountable, rare) Used in restricted contexts to refer to the meat derived from cattle.
There is no singular form for "cattle", and the words for the particular types of cattle are used: "bull", "calf" etc.
- There are five cows and a calf in that herd of cattle.
Where the type is unknown, "cow" is often used (although properly a cow is only an adult female).
- Is that a cow in the road?
When used as an uncountable noun, the phrase "head of cattle" is used for countable quantities of cattle.
- He sold 50 head of cattle last year.
However, "cattle" is often used as an ordinary plural rather than as as an uncountable noun.
- I have fifteen cattle.
In some circumstances the uncountable form is not used.
- How many cattle? (not how much cattle?).
From Middle English catel, from Anglo-Norman catel (“personal property”), from Old Northern French (compare French cheptel, Old French chetel, chatel, also English chattel) from Medieval Latin capitāle, from Latin capitālis (“of the head”), from caput (“head”) + -alis (“-al”).