Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Anglo-Norman catel, itself from medieval Latin capitale ‘principal sum of money, capital’, itself derived in turn from Latin caput ‘head’. Cattle originally movable personal property, especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to real property (the land, which also included wild or small free-roaming animals such as chickens — they were sold as part of the land). variant of chattel (a unit of personal property) and closely related to capital in the economic sense.The term replaced earlier Old English feoh ‘cattle, property’, which survives today as fee (cf. German: Vieh, Dutch: vee, Gothic : faihu).
The word “cow” came via Anglo-Saxon cū (plural cȳ), from Common Indo-European gʷōus (genitive gʷowés) = “a bovine animal”, compare Persian: gâv, Sanskrit: go-, Welsh: buwch. The plural also became ki or kie in Middle English, and an additional plural ending was often added, giving kine, kien, but also kies, kuin and others. This is the origin of the now archaic English plural, “kine”. The Scots language singular is coo or cou, and the plural is “kye”.
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