What Does “Low Key Cat” Mean? A Guide to the Latest Slang


The phrase “low key cat” is a slang term that combines “low key,” meaning relaxed, subtle, or understated, with “cat,” a slang word for a person. So a “low key cat” refers to someone who is chill, laidback, and doesn’t seek attention or drama.

The slang term “low key” has origins in the music world, referring to a tune or performance played in a lower key. It began being used in a figurative sense in the 1960s to mean “quiet” or “inconspicuous.” “Cat” as slang for “person” also dates back to jazz culture of the 1920s and became more widespread in the 1950s and 60s.1

While the exact origin of combining “low key” and “cat” is unknown, the phrase gained popularity on social media and in youth culture in the 2010s. It is used to positively describe someone who is humble, chill, and drama-free.

Meaning and Usage

“Low key” is a slang phrase that means relaxed, laid back, chill, easygoing, or not too intense. It refers to someone or something that is subtle, understated, mellow, or not too “over the top.”

Some examples of how “low key cat” is used in sentences:

  • “He’s a total low key cat who just likes to Netflix and chill on weekends.”
  • “She played it low key by wearing jeans and a t-shirt to the party instead of a fancy outfit.”
  • “Their wedding was super low key with just close friends and family rather than a big extravagant affair.”
  • “I’m low key obsessed with this new album, it’s so chill and the vibe is immaculate.”

So in summary, “low key” emphasizes a relaxed, casual, subtle, or toned-down approach. Calling someone a “low key cat” suggests they have a laidback personality and don’t seek a lot of attention. It’s a chill, informal way to describe someone’s temperament.

Related Slang Terms

The slang phrase “low key” when used to describe a cat or other animal often implies that the cat is calm, relaxed, mellow, easygoing, and not prone to loud meowing or hyperactivity. Here are some other similar slang phrases commonly used:

Chill cat – This refers to a cat that is very laidback, relaxed, and doesn’t get easily excited or riled up. A “chill cat” tends to lounge around napping or quietly observing their surroundings.1

Mellow cat – A “mellow cat” is one that has an easygoing, peaceful, serene personality. They don’t make a fuss and enjoy taking things slowly and steadily.2

Cool cat – This refers to a cat that is calm and composed. A “cool cat” doesn’t get flustered easily and maintains their chill personality in any situation. They give off effortless cool vibes.3

Opposite Phrases

The opposite phrase of “low key cat” is “high key cat” or “high strung cat.” This refers to a cat that is very energetic, excitable, anxious, or hyperactive. Some examples of using these contrasting phrases:

“My cat is so low key, he just sleeps all day. My friend has a high strung cat that zooms around nonstop.”

“I wanted a chill low key cat, but the one I adopted turned out to be high key and bounces off the walls. Maybe I should have gotten an older cat instead of a kitten.”

“That low key cat is just lounging in the sun, while the hyper cat tries to climb the curtains.”

Other opposites for a low key cat include “high maintenance,” “needy,” “demanding,” “restless,” and “high strung.” The key distinction is the mellow, relaxed nature of a low key cat, contrasted with the more energetic and excitable traits of a high key cat.

Pop Culture References

“Low key cat” and related phrases have appeared in various pop culture media over the years. In music, the rapper Logic titled one of his albums “Bobby Tarantino vs. Everybody” and described himself in the lyrics as a “Low key cat” (Source). The artist Lil B dubbed himself “The BasedGod” and is considered a “low key legend” in hip hop circles. Movies and TV shows have also referenced the term, like when the character Schmidt on New Girl described himself as a “Low key cat who avoids drama” in one episode.

The laidback nature associated with being a “low key cat” has been embraced by various celebrities over the years as well. Actors like Keanu Reeves and Steven Seagal have been referred to as “low key cats” in the media given their quiet, mysterious public personas. Overall, the phrase connotes a certain relaxed, understated coolness that resonates in popular culture.

Regional Differences

The slang term “low key” originated in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and has become more commonly used in some regions compared to others. According to Later Social Media Glossary, “low key” was popularized by hip hop culture and rap music, so its usage tends to be more prevalent in urban areas. The term is now widely used by millennials and Gen Zers across the United States, but may not be as familiar to older generations or in more rural areas.

There are some regional differences in how “low key” is interpreted as well. In parts of the Southern U.S., it may imply something is intentionally being hidden or kept secret. In the West Coast, it often simply means “casual” or “relaxed.” On social media, “low key” is widely used by youth nationwide to indicate something is subtle or not overtly showy.

Internationally, “low key” is a primarily American slang term. It emerged from AAVE and wider use of American English slang through mass media and the internet. So while the term may be familiar from U.S. pop culture exports, it is not commonly used in daily conversation outside of the United States.

Part of Speech and Grammar

The phrase “low key cat” functions as an adjective phrase. It is commonly used to modify nouns and describe something or someone as being subtle, relaxed, calm, or not overly expressive. For example:

“My cat is very low key. He mostly just sleeps all day.”

“John is a total low key cat. He never gets too excited or animated.”

The word “low key” originated as an adjective meaning “low intensity” or “restrained.” When used to describe a person or animal, it indicates their personality or demeanor is laidback, chill, and not prone to dramatic reactions or expressions.

Over time, “low key” evolved into a slang phrase functioning as an adverb meaning “in a relaxed or discreet way.” As an adverb, it modifies verbs. For example:

“Let’s just low key watch this movie tonight instead of going out.”

“She’s been low key dating that guy for a few months without anyone knowing.”

But in the specific phrase “low key cat,” it retains its original adjectival usage.

Emoji Representation

Low key cats are frequently represented with cool, calm emojis like 😎, 🙂, or 👍 to signify their relaxed and chill nature. Some other popular emoji choices include:

  • 🔑 – Key emoji, referring to the “low key” phrase
  • 🤏 – Pinching hand emoji, meaning “little bit” or low-key
  • 🪫 – Tuning fork emoji, representing a low pitch or volume
  • 🐈‍⬛ – Black cat emoji, visualizing the “cat” aspect literally

When people want to quickly communicate that something is low key, they will often use one or more of these applicable emojis. The sunglasses smiley face in particular has become a ubiquitous symbol online for something or someone who is low key, casual, and easygoing. While emojis lack the nuance of written language, these visual icons efficiently encapsulate the relaxed essence of low key cats in popular Internet slang.

Translation to Other Languages

“Low key cat” is an English slang phrase, so direct translations into other languages may not have the exact same meaning. The closest equivalents in other languages capture the sense of “low key” meaning laid back, chill, relaxed, or not over the top.

For example, in Spanish “gato tranquilo” or “gato relajado” would communicate a similar vibe. In French, “chat décontracté” gets across the casual, easygoing implication. In Japanese, “らしくないねこ” (rashikunai neko) translates literally to “uncharacteristic cat” but carries the slang meaning. In German, “entspannte Katze” captures the relaxed cat sentiment.

Since “low key” originated from American English slang, finding equivalent translations requires focusing more on the implied laidback meaning rather than direct word-for-word substitution. The translations should embody the casual, chill nature associated with being “low key.”


In summary, the phrase “low key” when describing a person or thing typically means subtle, understated, or relaxed. This slang usage originated in urban communities but has become widely adopted, especially among younger internet-savvy groups.

While regional and cultural differences in slang persist, online culture tends to spread new terms quickly. Understanding modern slang gives insight into youth perspectives and shared meanings.

Specifically, calling someone “low key” conveys they avoid drama, extravagance, and drawing attention to themselves. It suggests a casual, chill demeanor. The opposite meaning of high key implies someone or something very conspicuous, over-the-top, or intense.

With internet memes and influencer culture constantly introducing new slang, paying attention to these shifting cultural meanings allows better communication and connection across generations.

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