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(ˌkæt əˈnaɪnˌteɪlz)

n., pl. -tails.
a whip, usu. having nine knotted thongs or cords fastened to a handle, used for flogging.
[1685–95; from the resemblance of scars to a cat's scratches]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Some argue that it stems from Middle Eastern punishment techniques when liars' tongues were ripped out and then fed to the kings' cats, while others suggest it refers to the cat-o-nine-tails that was used to flog sailors and force them into silence.
Yet with Ross it seems that nothing short of coming on in Sachscloth and ashes and flagellating himself with a cat-o-nine-tails for an hour or two will do.