I stumbled on the word cattywampus.

where "The trucks were parked cattywampus in the lot." is given as an example.

As I understand it, it means the parked trucks are not parallel to each other. What are more common ways to express the same thing?

Also, are there words that can be used to express "something is not properly placed into the space*. For example, speaking of a single truck that is parked somewhat diagonally(?) in the space (for one truck), is there a word that works like below?

  • The truck is parked ????.

And somewhat similarly, what is a common word that fits the following instead of "cattywampus"?

  • The painting is hanged ????.
  • 1
    The painting is hanging askew, not hanged. Commented May 18 at 2:11
  • You might just about get away with haphazardly or askew for one vehicle in an otherwise empty large parking lot that was carelessly parked across two or more marked bays. But unless there are marked bays, who's to say if a single vehicle is "neatly" parked? Commented May 18 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


Collins defines catawampus (US, dialectal) variously as askew; awry and going badly, awkwardly, or in the wrong direction.

But in OP's specific context, I suggest higgledy-piggledy (mixed up and in no particular order) is a better known alternative (that's a link to a usage chart showing just how much better known! :)

FWIW, I'd never encountered cattywampus before now, but it strikes me as a tongue-in-cheek derivative of wampum, which I think reflects badly on the treatment of native Americans. So I wouldn't use it anyway. If not higgledy-piggledy then topsy-turvy. But that tends to imply random orientation in three dimensions (including Up/Down) - which can apply with higgledy-piggledy, but doesn't have to.

  • I may be off, but doesn't it matter if it is about single entity or multiple entities? For example, is the trucks were parked askew idiomatic?
    – sundowner
    Commented May 18 at 2:56
  • Re: higgled-piggledly, is it particularly British or used generally in English-speaking worlds?
    – sundowner
    Commented May 18 at 2:58
  • 1
    @sundowner "The trucks were parked askew" could mean the trucks all parked square to each other but 10° off from the painted lines; higgledy-piggledy would never mean that. In America it's rare but sure to be understood, not considered dialectal or anything, and I don't know if it's more common in Britain. Commented May 18 at 3:53
  • 1
    An Ngram search shoes higgledy-piggledy (note spelling, Sundowner!) as slightly more frequent in British English, but mot by much. Commented May 18 at 8:07
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers That's what I said?? Commented May 18 at 18:11

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