when the cat’s away, the mice will play

Cf. early 14th-cent. Fr. ou chat na rat regne, where there is no cat the rat is king; c 1470 Harley MS 3362 in Retrospective Review (1854) May 309 The mows lordchy-pythe [rules] ther a cat ys nawt; 1599 SHAKESPEARE Henry V I. ii. 172 To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot Comes sneaking, and so sucks her princely eggs, Playing the mouse in absence of the cat.

1607 T. HEYWOOD Woman killed with Kindness II. 135 Mum; there’s an old prouerbe, when the cats away, the mouse may play.

1670 J. RAY English Proverbs 68 When the cat is away, the mice play.

1876 I. BANKS Manchester Man III. xiv. Mrs. Ashton, saying ‘that when the cat’s away the mice will play’, had decided on remaining at home.

1925 S. O’CASEY Juno & Paycock I. 13 It’s a good job she has to be so often away, for when the cat’s away, the mice can play!

2001 R. HILL Dialogues of Dead xxx. 258 ‘When I’m having the time of my life, you’d not deprive me of the pleasure of thinking about all those poor sods back here working their fingers to the bone.’ ‘You don’t really believe that, do you? When the cat’s away..’


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  • When the cat's away (the mice will play). — When/While the cat s away (the mice will play). something that you say which means when the person in authority is absent, people will not do what they should do. Do you think it s wise to leave the children alone for so long? You know, while the …   New idioms dictionary

  • when the cat's away (the mice will play) — when/while/the cat’s away (the mice will play) humorous phrase used for saying that people will do what they want and have fun if someone in authority is not there Thesaurus: general words for entertainment and funhypernym types of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • when the cat's away, the mice will play — ► when (or while) the cat s away, the mice will play proverb it is natural for people to do as they like in the absence of someone in authority. Main Entry: ↑cat …   English terms dictionary

  • when the cat's away, the mice will play — when (or while) the cat s away, the mice will play proverb people will naturally take advantage of the absence of someone in authority to do as they like …   Useful english dictionary

  • when the cat's away the mice will play — when the cat s aˈway the mice will ˈplay idiom (saying) people enjoy themselves more and behave with greater freedom when the person in charge of them is not there Main entry: ↑catidiom …   Useful english dictionary

  • when the cat's away the mice will play — people being supervised often do things they are not supposed to do when the supervising person is not around (expression often used in a humorous way about employer and employees, parents and children, etc.) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • While the cat's away (the mice will play). — When/While the cat s away (the mice will play). something that you say which means when the person in authority is absent, people will not do what they should do. Do you think it s wise to leave the children alone for so long? You know, while the …   New idioms dictionary

  • while the cat's away (the mice will play) — when/while/the cat’s away (the mice will play) humorous phrase used for saying that people will do what they want and have fun if someone in authority is not there Thesaurus: general words for entertainment and funhypernym types of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • while the cat's away, the mice will play — ► when (or while) the cat s away, the mice will play proverb it is natural for people to do as they like in the absence of someone in authority. Main Entry: ↑cat …   English terms dictionary

  • while the cat's away, the mouse will play — People whose behaviour is strictly controlled go over the top when the authority is not around, which is why most teenagers have parties when their parents have gone on holiday. The parents are the scary authority figures, but the cat s away and… …   The small dictionary of idiomes

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