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1. the raised area at a fashion show that the models walk along

2. used for referring to fashion shows and the fashion industry

3. a structure for people to walk on, built high on the side of a building or above a stage in a theatre

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The first recorded use of the term catwalk (spelled cat-walk) comes from the 1885 journal of the renowned artist and children’s author Beatrix Potter, who referred to ‘a slip of a garden, a cat-walk‘. It is a compound formed from the nouns ‘cat’ and ‘walk’, meaning a path for walking on, especially in a garden.


Early uses of catwalk, often spelled as two words or hyphenated, refer to a narrow platform or gangway, often on a ship or in an aircraft. In the theatre it refers to a narrow bridge above the stage joining the areas from which the scenery is manipulated. The first reference to the use of the term in fashion dates from only 1970, but it has become by far the dominant meaning. The term ‘runway’ is also used. The height and narrowness of the catwalk at a fashion show are designed to highlight and dramatize the appearance and movements of the models, who walk with a distinctive catwalk strut; so much so that catwalk is sometimes used as a verb, meaning to walk like a model on a catwalk.


“When I first started modelling, as I was walking down the catwalk I just thought, ‘Please don’t fall over, please don’t fall over, please don’t fall over!'”
(Agyness Deyn)

Related words

collection, house, runway

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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