This phrase is from Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe by Josh Allen (2019) and I'm not sure what it means by whisper thin.

The cat was whisper thin and had a notch in its ear.

  • 1
    A whisper is a sound you can hardly hear because it is so quiet; a whisper thin cat could be one you can hardly see because it is so thin. Also it sounds like 'wisp'. May 8, 2020 at 11:45
  • 2
    But it was a cat! It’s just begging for whisker thin...
    – Jim
    May 8, 2020 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


The phrase seems to come more from the verb "to thin":


1 To make thin; to reduce in thickness or depth;

1793 Trans. Soc. Arts (ed. 2) 5 204 The two ends are to be thinned off in form of a wedge.

and from The Freedictionary: we have "thin"(adjective) being "dilute" or "to dilute"

2020 Broth - A thin, clear soup based on stock, to which rice, barley, meat, or vegetables may be added.

2020 Greybeard EL&U "He added turpentine in order to thin the paint."

Thus we see that a soup is thicker than a broth.

"To thin" was then used figuratively in the sense of reduce or dilute.

1787 T. Jefferson Writings (1859) II. 117 Real friends, whose affections are not thinned to cob-web.

Sir A. C. Doyle in "Round the Red Lamp" writes:

"It was then I learned that [...] that rough voice could thin into a whisper when it spoke to a sick child.

Thus we have whisper thin = as thin as a whisper = as weak and diluted (in sound) as a whisper (which is "thin").

So now we have whisper being used figuratively to mean "thin", and "thin" being literal so "the cat was whisper thin" = "the cat was thin thin = "the cat was very thin indeed.

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