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    cassation (n.) — catdom (n.)

    cassation (n.)

    "anullment, act of cancelling," early 15c., from Old French cassation, from casser, from Late Latin cassare, from Latin quassare "annul, quash" (see quash).ETD cassation (n.).2

    cassava (n.)

    "tropical American plant cultivated for its edible, tuberous roots," 1560s, from French cassave, Spanish casabe, or Portuguese cassave, from a Haitian word, Taino (Arawakan) caçabi. Earlier in English as cazabbi (1550s).ETD cassava (n.).2

    Cassegrain (adj.)

    also Cassegrainian, in reference to a type of reflecting telescope, 1813, named for 17c. French priest and teacher Laurent Cassegrain, who described it in a journal article in 1672.ETD Cassegrain (adj.).2

    casserole (n.)

    1706, "stew pan," from French casserole "sauce pan" (16c.), diminutive of casse "pan" (14c.), from Provençal cassa "melting pan," from Medieval Latin cattia "pan, vessel," possibly from Greek kyathion, diminutive of kyathos "cup for the wine bowl." Originally the pan; by 1889 also of the dishes cooked in it, via cookery phrases such as en casserole, à la casserole.ETD casserole (n.).2

    cassette (n.)

    1793, "a little box," from French cassette, from a diminutive of Old North French casse "box" (see case (n.2)). Meaning "magnetic tape cartridge" is from 1960.ETD cassette (n.).2

    cassis (n.)

    black currant liquor, 1907, from French cassis (16c.) "black currant," apparently from Latin cassia (see cassia). The modern liqueur dates from mid-19c.ETD cassis (n.).2

    cassia (n.)

    cinnamon-like plant of tropical regions, late Old English, from Latin cassia, from Greek kasia, from Hebrew q'tsi-ah "cassia," from qatsa "to cut off, strip off bark."ETD cassia (n.).2

    Cassiopeia (n.)

    northern circumpolar constellation, in Greek mythology queen of Ethiopia, wife of Cepheus and mother of Andromeda, from Latinized form of Greek Kassiepeia, Kassiopeia, a name of unknown etymology. A conspicuous "W" (or "M") of stars, always opposite the Big Dipper, she is represented as seated in a chair. The supernova there in 1572 outshone Venus, was observed by Tycho, among others, and helped revolutionize astronomy. Related: Cassiopeian.ETD Cassiopeia (n.).2


    Roman gens, one of the oldest families of Rome. The conspirator against Caesar was C. Cassius Longinus.ETD Cassius.2

    cassock (n.)

    1540s, "long loose gown or outer cloak," from French casaque "long coat" (16c.), corresponding to Spanish casaca, Italian casacca, probably ultimately from Turkish quzzak "nomad, adventurer," (the source of Cossack), from their typical riding coat. Or perhaps from Arabic kazagand, from Persian kazhagand "padded coat," from kazh "raw silk" + agand "stuffed." Chiefly a soldier's cloak 16c.-17c.; ecclesiastical use is from 1660s.ETD cassock (n.).2

    cassowary (n.)

    "large, flightless bird of Australia and Papua," 1610s, via French or Dutch, from Malay (Austronesian) kasuari.ETD cassowary (n.).2

    cast (n.)

    mid-13c., "a throw, an act of throwing," from cast (v.). In early use especially of dice, hence the figurative uses relating to fortune or fate. The meaning "that which is cast" is from mid-15c. The meaning "dash or shade of color" is from c. 1600.ETD cast (n.).2

    The sense of "a throw" carried an idea of "the form the thing takes after it has been thrown," which led to widespread and varied meanings, such as "group of actors in a play" (1630s). OED finds 42 distinct noun meaning and 83 verbal ones, with many sub-definitions. Many of the figurative senses converged into a general meaning "sort, kind, style" (mid-17c.).ETD cast (n.).3

    The meaning "model made from taking an impression of an object" is from c. 1500. A cast in the eye "slight squint" (early 14c.) preserves the older verbal sense of "warp, turn," via the notion of "permanent motion or turn." As "plaster molded around an injured or diseased part," by 1883.ETD cast (n.).4

    caste (n.)

    1610s, "one of the hereditary social groups of India," from Portuguese casta "breed, race, caste," earlier casta raça, "unmixed race," from Latin castus "cut off, separated" (also "pure," via notion of "cut off" from faults), past participle of carere "to be cut off from," from PIE *kas-to-, from root *kes- "to cut." Caste system is recorded from 1840. An earlier, now-obsolete sense of caste in English is "a race of men" (1550s), from Latin castus "chaste."ETD caste (n.).2

    casting (n.)

    c. 1300, "a throwing," verbal noun from cast (v.). From early 15c. as "the casting of metal, the act or process of founding;" 1788 as "a metal casting, that which has been formed by running molten metal into a mold of a desired form." The theatrical sense is from 1814; casting couch "divan in a Hollywood casting directors office," with suggestion of sexual favors in exchange for a role in a picture is by 1948.ETD casting (n.).2

    cast (v.)

    c. 1200, "throw, throw violently, fling, hurl," from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse kasta "to throw" (cognate with Swedish kasta, Danish kaste, North Frisian kastin), a word of uncertain origin.ETD cast (v.).2

    The meaning "to form in a mold" is late 15c. In the sense of "to throw" it replaced Old English weorpan (see warp (v.)), and itself largely has been superseded by throw, though cast still is used of fishing lines (17c.) and glances (13c.).ETD cast (v.).3

    From c. 1300 as "emit, give out;" also "throw to the ground;" also "shed or throw off;" also "calculate, find by reckoning; chart (a course)." From late 14c. as "to calculate astrologically." From late 15c. as "bring forth abortively or prematurely." From 1711 as "distribute the parts (of a play) among the actors." Of votes, from 1840, American English. To cast up is from 1530s as "compute, reckon" (accounts, etc.), late 15c. as "eject, vomit."ETD cast (v.).4

    castanet (n.)

    usually castanets, "slightly concave shells of ivory or hard wood, fastened and used in beating time in music or dancing," 1640s, from French castagnette or directly from Spanish castañeta diminutive of castaña "chestnut," from Latin castanea (see chestnut).ETD castanet (n.).2

    castaway (n.)

    late 15c., "one who is rejected," from the verbal phrase "to reject, dismiss" (c. 1300, literal and figurative), from cast (v.) + away (adv.). Often in a spiritual sense at first; Johnson's dictionary in 1799 gives "A person lost, or abandoned, by Providence" as the only definition. The specific sense "one adrift at sea" is from 1799. The adjective is recorded from 1540s.ETD castaway (n.).2

    castellated (adj.)

    "furnished with turrets and battlements," 1670s, from Medieval Latin castellatus "built like a castle," past participle of castellare "to fortify as a castle, build as a castle, furnish with turrets and battlements," from Latin castellum "castle, fort, citadel, stronghold" (see castle (n.)). Related: Castellation.ETD castellated (adj.).2

    castellan (n.)

    also castellain, "a governor of a castle," late 14c., from Old North French castelain, Old French chastelain "owner and lord of a castle, nobleman; keeper of a castle" (Modern French châtelaine), from chastel "castle," from Latin castellum "castle" (see castle (n.)). Related: Castellany "jurisdiction of a castellan."ETD castellan (n.).2

    caster (n.1)

    also sometimes castor, "person or thing that casts," late 14c., agent noun from cast (v.). The meaning "pepper shaker, small perforated container" is from 1670s, on the notion of something that "throws" the powder, liquid, etc., when needed.ETD caster (n.1).2

    caster (n.2)

    "small wheel and swivel attached to the leg of a piece of furniture," 1748, agent noun from cast (v.) in the old sense of "turn." Also sometimes castor.ETD caster (n.2).2

    castigation (n.)

    "punishment, correction, chastisement," late 14c., castigacioun, from Latin castigationem (nominative castigatio) "a correcting, reproof, chastising," noun of action from past-participle stem of castigare "to correct, set right; purify" (see castigate).ETD castigation (n.).2

    castigate (v.)

    "to chastise, punish," c. 1600, from Latin castigatus, past participle of castigare "to correct, set right; purify; chastise, punish," from castus "pure" (see caste) + agere "to do" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). The notion behind the word is "make someone pure by correction or reproof." Compare purge (v.), from purus + agere. Related: Castigated; castigating; castigator; castigatory.ETD castigate (v.).2


    medieval Spanish county and later kingdom, from Vulgar Latin *castilla, from Latin castella, plural of castellum "castle, fort, citadel, stronghold" (see castle (n.)); so called in reference to the many fortified places there during the Moorish wars. The name in Spanish is said to date back to c.800. Related: Castilian. As a fine kind of soap, in English from 1610s.ETD Castile.2

    cast-iron (n.)

    1660s, cast iron, from iron (n.) + cast (adj.) "made by melting and being left to harden in a mold" (1530s), past-participle adjective from cast (v.) in its sense "to throw something (in a particular way)," c. 1300, especially "form metal into a shape by pouring it molten" (1510s). From 1690s as an adjective, "made of cast-iron;" figurative sense of "inflexible, unyielding" is from 1830.ETD cast-iron (n.).2

    castle (n.)

    late Old English castel "village" (this sense from a biblical usage in Vulgar Latin); later "large building or series of connected buildings fortified for defense, fortress, stronghold" (late Old English), in this sense from Old North French castel (Old French chastel, 12c.; Modern French château), from Latin castellum "a castle, fort, citadel, stronghold; fortified village," diminutive of castrum "fort," from Proto-Italic *kastro- "part, share;" cognate with Old Irish cather, Welsh caer "town" (probably related to castrare via notion of "cut off," from PIE root *kes- "to cut"). In early bibles, castle was used to translate Greek kome "village."ETD castle (n.).2

    Latin castrum in its plural castra was used for "military encampment, military post" and thus it came into Old English as ceaster and formed the -caster and -chester in place names. Spanish alcazar "castle" is from Arabic al-qasr, from Latin castrum. Castles in Spain "visionary project, vague imagination of possible wealth" translates 14c. French chastel en Espaigne (the imaginary castles sometimes stood in Brie, Asia, or Albania) and probably reflects the hopes of landless knights to establish themselves abroad. The statement that an (English) man's home is his castle is from 16c.ETD castle (n.).3

    castle (v.)

    chess move involving the king and the rook, recorded under this name from 1650s, from castle (n.), as an old alternative name for the rook. Earlier, the verb meant "fortify (a place) with castles" (c. 1500); "provide (a ship) with fortified towers" (c. 1400); "decorate (a dish) with paper towers, etc." (late 14c.). Related: Castled; castling.ETD castle (v.).2

    cast-off (adj.)

    1709, "put aside, rejected," from verbal phrase cast off "discard, reject" (c. 1400), from cast (v.) + off (adv.). From 1741 as a noun, "person or thing abandoned as worthless or useless." Related" Cast-offs.ETD cast-off (adj.).2

    castor (n.)

    late 14c., "a beaver," from Old French castor (13c.), from Latin castor "beaver," from Greek kastor "beaver," perhaps literally "he who excels," and thus identical with the name of one of the divine twins (with Pollux), worshipped by women in ancient Greece as a healer and preserver from disease (see Castor).ETD castor (n.).2

    It has been assumed that the hero's name was given to the animal because he was a noted healer and the odorous reddish-brown secretions of the inguinal sacs of the animal (Latin castoreum), were used medicinally in ancient times, especially for women's diseases. But the animal did not live in Greece in classical times (the closest beavers were north of the Black Sea), and the name probably was borrowed from another language, perhaps influenced by the hero's name. The Greek word replaced the native Latin word for "beaver" (fiber).ETD castor (n.).3

    In English, castor is attested in the secretion sense from late 14c. Modern castor oil is so-called by 1746; it is made from seeds of the plant Ricinus communis but supposedly possesses the laxative qualities (and taste) of beaver juice.ETD castor (n.).4


    one of the divine twins (brother of Pollux), also the name of the alpha star of Gemini, Latin, from Greek Kastor, perhaps literally "he who excels." They were sons of Tyndarus, king of Sparta (but in post-Homeric myth of Zeus in the form of a swan) and Leda.ETD Castor.2

    castrate (v.)

    "to deprive of the testicles, emasculate," 1610s (implied in castrated), back-formation from castration (q.v.), or from Latin castratus, past participle of castrare "to castrate, emasculate; to prune," supposedly from a noun *castrum "knife, instrument that cuts" (from PIE root *kes- "to cut"). The figurative sense "destroy the strength or vitality of" is attested earlier (1550s). Related: Castrating.ETD castrate (v.).2

    castration (n.)

    "act of castrating," early 15c., castracioun, from Latin castrationem (nominative castratio), noun of action from past-participle stem of castrare "to castrate, emasculate," supposedly from a noun *castrum "knife, instrument that cuts" (from PIE root *kes- "to cut"). Freud's castration complex is attested from 1914 in English (translating German Kastrationsangst).ETD castration (n.).2

    castrati (n.)

    plural of castrato.ETD castrati (n.).2

    castrato (n.)

    "male person emasculated during childhood to prevent the change of voice at puberty, artificial male soprano," 1763, from Italian castrato, from Latin castratus (see castration). "The voice of such a person, after arriving at adult age, combines the high range and sweetness of the female with the power of the male voice" [Century Dictionary]. With various euphemisms, e.g. tenorino "high tenor" also "castrato alto" (by 1867).ETD castrato (n.).2

    casual (adj.)

    late 14c., casuel, "subject to or produced by chance," from Old French casuel (15c.), from Late Latin casualis "by chance," from Latin casus "chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, event" (see case (n.1)).ETD casual (adj.).2

    Of persons, in the sense of "not to be depended on, unmethodical," it is attested from 1883 (from the notion of "without regularity," hence "uncertain, unpredictable"); the meaning "showing lack of interest" is from 1916. Of clothes, "informal," from 1891. Related: Casually.ETD casual (adj.).3

    casualness (n.)

    "state of being casual," 1730, from casual (adj.) + -ness.ETD casualness (n.).2

    casualty (n.)

    early 15c., casuelte, caswelte, "chance, accident; incidental charge," from casual (adj.) on the model of royalty, penalty, etc. From the earliest use especially of untoward events or misfortunes. The meaning "losses in numbers from a military or other troop" is from late 15c. The meaning "an individual killed, wounded, or lost in battle" is from 1844. Casuality had some currency 16c.-17c. in the sense "chance, a chance occurrence," especially an unfortunate one, but now is obsolete.ETD casualty (n.).2

    casuist (n.)

    c. 1600, "one who studies and resolves cases of conscience," from French casuiste (17c.) or Spanish casuista (the French word also might be from Spanish), Italian casista, all from Latin casus "case" (see case (n.1)) in its Medieval Latin sense "case of conscience." Often since 17c. in a sinister or contemptuous sense "over-subtle reasoner, sophist." Related: Casuistic; casuistical; casuistically.ETD casuist (n.).2

    casuistry (n.)

    1703, in ethics, "the solution of special problems of conscience by application of general principles or theories;" see casuist + -ry. Even in the earliest printed uses the sense was pejorative.ETD casuistry (n.).2

    casus belli (n.)

    an act justifying war, 1840, from Latin casus "case" (see case (n.1)) + belli, genitive of bellum "war" (see bellicose).ETD casus belli (n.).2

    cat (n.)

    Old English catt (c. 700) "domestic cat," from West Germanic (c. 400-450), from Proto-Germanic *kattuz (source also of Old Frisian katte, Old Norse köttr, Dutch kat, Old High German kazza, German Katze), from Late Latin cattus.ETD cat (n.).2

    The near-universal European word now, it appeared in Europe as Latin catta (Martial, c. 75 C.E.), Byzantine Greek katta (c. 350) and was in general use on the continent by c. 700, replacing Latin feles. It is probably ultimately Afro-Asiatic (compare Nubian kadis, Berber kadiska, both meaning "cat"). Arabic qitt "tomcat" may be from the same source. Cats were domestic in Egypt from c. 2000 B.C.E. but not a familiar household animal to classical Greeks and Romans.ETD cat (n.).3

    The Late Latin word also is the source of Old Irish and Gaelic cat, Welsh kath, Breton kaz, Italian gatto, Spanish gato, French chat (12c.). Independent, but ultimately from the same source are words in the Slavic group: Old Church Slavonic kotuka, kotel'a, Bulgarian kotka, Russian koška, Polish kot, along with Lithuanian katė and (non-Indo-European) Finnish katti, which is via Lithuanian.ETD cat (n.).4

    Extended to lions, tigers, etc. c. 1600. The nine lives have been proverbial at least since 1560s. As a term of contempt for a woman, from early 13c. The slang sense of "prostitute" is from at least c. 1400. That of "fellow, guy," is from 1920, originally in African-American vernacular; narrower sense of "jazz enthusiast" is recorded from 1931.ETD cat (n.).5

    Cat's paw (1769, but cat's foot in the same sense, 1590s) refers to the old folk tale in which the monkey tricks the cat into pawing chestnuts from a fire; the monkey gets the roasted nuts, the cat gets a burnt paw. Cat burglar is from 1907, so called for stealth. Cat-witted "small-minded, obstinate, and spiteful" (1670s) deserved to survive. For Cat's meow, cat's pajamas, see bee's knees. For let the cat out of the bag, see bag (n.).ETD cat (n.).6


    1975, medical acronym for computerized axial tomography or something like it. Related: CAT scan.ETD CAT.2


    word-forming element meaning "down, downward," but also "through, on, against, concerning," etc., from Latinized form of Greek kata-, before vowels kat-, from kata "down, downward, down from, down to," from PIE *kmt- "down, with, along" (source also of Hittite kattan (adv.) "below, underneath," katta "along with"). Occasionally in Greek it had senses of "against" (catapult) or "wrongly" (catachresis), also "along, through, over, across, concerning." Also sometimes used as an intensive or with a sense of completion of action (catalogue). Very active in ancient Greek, this prefix is found in English mostly in words borrowed through Latin after c. 1500.ETD cata-.2

    catabolism (n.)

    1876, katabolism, "destructive metabolism," from Greek katabole "a throwing down" (also "a foundation"), from kataballein "to throw down," from kata "down" (see cata-) + ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach"). Barnhart says probably formed in English on the model of metabolism. Spelling Latinized from 1889.ETD catabolism (n.).2

    catabolic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or of the nature of catabolism," 1876; see catabolism + -ic.ETD catabolic (adj.).2

    catachresis (n.)

    "an improper or inconsistent metaphor, exceptional or undue extension of a word's meaning" (as "to stone someone with bricks"), 1580s, from Latin catachresis, from Greek katakhresis "misuse" (of a word), from katakhresthai "to misuse," from kata "down" (here with a sense of "perversion;" see cata-) + khresthai "to use" (from PIE root *gher- (2) "to like, want"). Related: Catachrestic; catachrestical; catachrestically.ETD catachresis (n.).2

    cataclasm (n.)

    "a breaking asunder, a violent disruption," 1829, from Latinized form of Greek kataklasm "breakage," from kata "down" (see cata-) + klan, klaein "to break," which is perhaps from PIE *kla-, variant of root *kel- "to strike" (see holt), but more likely of uncertain origin [Beekes]. Cataclastic, in geology, in reference to a structural character due to intense crushing, is attested from 1885.ETD cataclasm (n.).2

    cataclysmic (adj.)

    "pertaining to, or of the nature of, a cataclysm," 1837, from cataclysm + -ic. Related: Cataclysmical (1857); cataclysmically.ETD cataclysmic (adj.).2

    cataclysm (n.)

    "a deluge, a flood," originally especially "Noah's flood," 1630s, from French cataclysme (16c.), from Latin cataclysmos or directly from Greek kataklysmos "deluge, flood, inundation," from kataklyzein "to deluge," from kata "down" (see cata-) + klyzein "to wash," from PIE *kleue- "to wash, clean" (see cloaca).ETD cataclysm (n.).2

    catacomb (n.)

    "underground burial place," usually catacombs, from Old English catacumbas, from Late Latin catacumbae (plural) "sepulchral vaults," originally the region of underground tombs near Rome between the 2nd and 3rd milestones of the Appian Way (where the bodies of apostles Paul and Peter, among others, were said to have been laid); the word is of obscure origin, perhaps once a proper name, or dissimilation from Latin cata tumbas "at the graves," from cata- "among" + tumbas, accusative plural of tumba "tomb" (see tomb).ETD catacomb (n.).2

    If so, the word perhaps was altered by influence of Latin -cumbere "to lie." From the same source are French catacombe, Italian catacomba, Spanish catacumba. Extended by 1836 in English to any subterranean receptacle of the dead (as in Paris). Related: Catacumbal.ETD catacomb (n.).3

    catafalque (n.)

    "stage erected in a church to support a coffin during a funeral," 1640s, from French catafalque (17c.), or directly from Italian catafalco "scaffold," which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *catafalicum, from Greek kata "down" (see cata-), used in Medieval Latin with a sense of "beside, alongside" + fala "scaffolding, wooden siege tower," a word said to be of Etruscan origin. The Medieval Latin word also yielded Old French chaffaut, chafaud (Modern French échafaud) "scaffold."ETD catafalque (n.).2

    Catalan (adj.)

    "pertaining to Catalonia," also as a noun, "person from Catalonia," late 15c., from the indigenous name, which is said to be of Celtic origin and probably mean "chiefs of battle." But as the name is not attested before 11c., it perhaps is a Medieval Latin form of *Gothlandia "land of the Goths." As a noun meaning "a Catalan," Middle English used Cateloner (mid-14c.), Catellain (early 15c., from French). As a language name in English by 1792.ETD Catalan (adj.).2

    catalectic (adj.)

    1580s, of a line of verse, "wanting an unaccented syllable in the last foot," from Late Latin catalecticus, from Greek katalektikos "leaving off," from kata "down" (see cata-) + legein "to leave off, cease from," from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid." A complete line is said to be acatalectic.ETD catalectic (adj.).2

    catalepsy (n.)

    "an attack or abnormal state of muscular rigidity in the limbs," late 14c., cathalempsia, from Medieval Latin catalepsia, from Late Latin catalepsis, from Greek katalepsis "a seizure, a seizing upon, a taking possession," from kataleptos "seized," from katalambanein "to seize upon," from kata "down" (see cata-) + lambanein "to take" (see lemma).ETD catalepsy (n.).2

    cataleptic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or affected with catalepsy," 1680s, from Late Latin catalepticus, from Greek kataleptikos, from kataleptos (see catalepsy). The noun meaning "one affected by catalepsy" is from 1851.ETD cataleptic (adj.).2


    an alternative spelling of catalogue. There are examples from 16c., but in modern times it seems to have emerged late 19c. (Century Dictionary, 1895, describes it as "a recent spelling"), but it was used earlier in German.ETD catalog.2

    catalogue (v.)

    1590s, "to make a catalogue;" see catalogue (n.). From 1630s as "to enter into a catalogue." Related: Catalogued; cataloguer; cataloguing.ETD catalogue (v.).2

    catalogue (n.)

    "a list of separate items, an itemized enumeration," usually in order and with some description, early 15c., cathaloge, from Old French catalogue "list, index" (14c.), and directly from Late Latin catalogus, from Greek katalogos "a list, register, enrollment" (such as the katalogos neon, the "catalogue of ships" in the "Iliad"), from katalegein "to reckon up, tell at length," from kata "down; completely" (see cata-) + legein "to say, count," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')."ETD catalogue (n.).2

    Catalonian (adj.)

    1707, from Catalonia (see Catalan) + -ian.ETD Catalonian (adj.).2

    catalpa (n.)

    type of large-leaved North American tree with winged seeds, c. 1740, from an American Indian language of the Carolinas, perhaps Creek (Muskogean) /katalpa/, literally "head-wing."ETD catalpa (n.).2

    catalyse (v.)

    variant spelling of catalyze (q.v.); for spelling, see -ize. Related: Catalysed; catalysing.ETD catalyse (v.).2

    catalysis (n.)

    1650s, "dissolution," from Latinized form of Greek katalysis "dissolution, a dissolving" (of governments, military units, etc.), from katalyein "to dissolve," from kata "down" (or "completely"), see cata-, + lyein "to loosen" (from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart"). The chemical sense of "change caused by an agent which itself remains unchanged" is attested from 1836, introduced by Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848).ETD catalysis (n.).2

    catalyst (n.)

    "substance which speeds a chemical reaction but itself remains unchanged," 1900, formed in English (on analogy of analyst) from catalysis. Figurative use by 1943.ETD catalyst (n.).2

    catalytic (adj.)

    "having the power of decomposing a compound chemical body," 1836, from Latinized form of Greek katalytikos "able to dissolve," from katalyein "to dissolve," from kata "down" (or "completely"), see cata-, + lyein "to loosen" (from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart").ETD catalytic (adj.).2

    catalyze (v.)

    "cause or accelerate (a reaction) by acting as a catalyst; cause to begin," 1871, probably a back-formation from catalysis on model of analyze/analysis. Related: Catalyzed; catalyzing. Probably influenced by French catalyser (1842).ETD catalyze (v.).2

    catamaran (n.)

    East Indies log raft, 1670s, from Hindi or Malayalam, from Tamil (Dravidian) kattu-maram "tied wood," from kattu "tie, binding" + maram "wood, tree." It also was used in the West Indies and South America.ETD catamaran (n.).2

    catamite (n.)

    "boy used in pederasty," 1590s, from Latin Catamitus, corruption of Ganymedes, the name of the beloved cup-bearer of Jupiter (see Ganymede). Cicero used it as a contemptuous insult against Antonius.ETD catamite (n.).2

    catamount (n.)

    1660s as a shortening of cat-o'-mountain (1610s), from cat of the mountain (mid-15c.), a name aplied to various large wild cats of the Old World. From 1794 in reference to the lynx, puma, or cougar of the United States and Canada.ETD catamount (n.).2

    cataphract (n.)

    1580s, "scale-like metal armor for the body," from Latin cataphractes "breastplate of iron scales," from Greek kataphraktēs "coat of mail," from kataphraktos "mailed, protected, covered up," from kataphrassein "to fortify," from kata "entirely" (see cata-) + phrassein "to fence around, enclose, defend" (see diaphragm). From 1670s as "a soldier in full armor" (probably from Latin cataphracti "mailed soldiers"). Related: Cataphractic.ETD cataphract (n.).2

    cataplexy (n.)

    "sudden nervous shock and paralysis, the state of an animal when it is feigning death," 1880, Latinized and Anglicized from German Kataplexie (1878), from Greek kataplexis "stupefaction, amazement, consternation," from kataplēssein "to strike down" (with fear, etc.), from kata "down" (see cata-) + plēssein "to strike, hit" (from PIE root *plak- (2) "to strike"). The German word was coined by William Thierry Preyer (1841-1897), English-born German physiologist, in "Die Kataplexie und der thierische Hypnotismus" (Jena). Related: Cataplectic.ETD cataplexy (n.).2

    catapult (n.)

    1570s, from French catapulte and directly from Latin catapulta "war machine for throwing," from Greek katapeltēs, from kata "against" in reference to walls, or perhaps "through" in reference to armor (see cata-) + base of pallein "to toss, hurl" (from PIE root *pel- (5) "to thrust, strike, drive"). In ancient times a Roman military engine for throwing huge darts.ETD catapult (n.).2

    As an airplane-launching device on an aircraft-carrier by 1927.ETD catapult (n.).3

    catapult (v.)

    1848, "to throw with a catapult," from catapult (n.). Intransitive sense by 1928. Related: Catapulted; catapulting.ETD catapult (v.).2

    cataract (n.)

    early 15c., "a waterfall, floodgate, furious rush of water," from Latin cataracta "waterfall," from Greek katarhaktēs "waterfall, broken water; a kind of portcullis," noun use of an adjective compound meaning "swooping, down-rushing," from kata "down" (see cata-). The second element is traced either to arhattein "to strike hard" (in which case the compound is kat-arrhattein), or to rhattein "to dash, break."ETD cataract (n.).2

    Its alternative sense in Latin of "portcullis" probably passed through French and gave English the meaning "eye disease characterized by opacity of the lens" (early 15c.), on the notion of "obstruction" (to eyesight). Related: Cataractous.ETD cataract (n.).3

    catarrh (n.)

    "disease characterized by inflammation of, and discharge from, a mucous membrane; a cold in the head or chest," late 14c., from Medieval Latin catarrus, from Late Latin catarrhus, from Greek katarrhous "a catarrh, a head cold," literally "a flowing down," earlier kata rrhoos, ultimately from kata "down" (see cata-) + rhein "to flow" (from PIE root *sreu- "to flow"). Related: Catarrhal; catarrhous.ETD catarrh (n.).2

    catastaltic (adj.)

    in medicine, "having the power to check, repress, or restrain; inhibitory," 1848, from Late Latin catastalticus, from Greek katastaltikos, from katastellein "to keep down, check," from kata "down" (see cata-) + stellein "arrange, set, place" (from PIE *stel-yo-, suffixed form of root *stel- "to put, stand, put in order," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place).ETD catastaltic (adj.).2

    catastrophism (n.)

    as a geological or biological theory (opposed to uniformitarianism), 1869, coined by T.H. Huxley from catastrophe + -ism. Related: Catastrophist.ETD catastrophism (n.).2

    catastrophic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or of the nature of a catastrophe," 1824, from catastrophe + -ic. Related: Catastrophical; catastrophically.ETD catastrophic (adj.).2

    catastrophe (n.)

    1530s, "reversal of what is expected" (especially a fatal turning point in a drama, the winding up of the plot), from Latin catastropha, from Greek katastrophē "an overturning; a sudden end," from katastrephein "to overturn, turn down, trample on; to come to an end," from kata "down" (see cata-) + strephein "turn" (see strepto-). The extension to "sudden disaster" is attested from 1748.ETD catastrophe (n.).2

    catatonic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or characterized by catatonia," 1899, from catatonia + -ic. As a noun, "person with catatonia," from 1902.ETD catatonic (adj.).2

    catatonia (n.)

    disturbed mental state involving immobility or abnormality of movement and behavior, 1888, from medical Latin catatonia; replacing katatonia (1880s), which was formed directly from Greek kata "down" (see cata-) + tonos "tone" (from PIE root *ten- "to stretch") + abstract noun ending -ia.ETD catatonia (n.).2

    catawampus (adj.)

    also catawampous, cattywampus, catiwampus, etc. (see "Dictionary of American Slang" for more), American colloquial. The first element perhaps is from obsolete cater "to set or move diagonally" (see catty-cornered); the second element perhaps is related to Scottish wampish "to wriggle, twist, or swerve about." Or perhaps the whole is simply the sort of jocular pseudo-classical formation popular in the slang of 1830s America, with the first element suggesting cata-.ETD catawampus (adj.).2

    Earliest use seems to be in adverbial form, catawampusly (1834), expressing no certain meaning but adding intensity to the action: "utterly, completely; with avidity, fiercely, eagerly." It appears as a noun from 1843, as a name for an imaginary hobgoblin or fright, perhaps from influence of catamount. The adjective is attested from the 1840s as an intensive, but this is only in British lampoons of American speech and might not be authentic. It was used in the U.S. by 1864 in a sense of "askew, awry, wrong" and by 1873 (noted as a peculiarity of North Carolina speech) as "in a diagonal position, on a bias, crooked."ETD catawampus (adj.).3

    Catawba (n.)

    type of American grape, 1857, the name taken from the river in the Carolinas, in which region the grape was found. The river is named for the Katahba Indian group and language (Siouan), from their word katapu "fork of a stream," itself a Muskogean loan-word meaning "separate."ETD Catawba (n.).2

    cat-bath (n.)

    "hurried or partial cleaning," 1935, from cat (n.) + bath (n.). Cat-lick in this sense is from 1892; Middle English had cat-likked "licked clean."ETD cat-bath (n.).2

    catbird (n.)

    also cat-bird, 1731, common name for the North American thrush (Dumetella Carolinensis), related to the mockingbird, so called from its warning cry, which resembles the meowling of a cat; from cat (n.) + bird (n.1). "Its proper song is voluble, varied, and highly musical" [Century Dictionary].ETD catbird (n.).2

    To be in the catbird seat "in an advantageous situation and doing very well" is apparently originally a Midwesternism (Kansas and Missouri), attested by 1921, popularized in the East by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball announcer Walter "Red" Barber (1908-1992) and nationally by author James Thurber:ETD catbird (n.).3

    Those two and one other were noted in a New York Daily News radio column item on Barber by Sid Shalit on Aug. 10, 1940.ETD catbird (n.).4

    catcall (n.)

    also cat-call, 1650s, a type of noisemaker (Johnson describes it as a "squeaking instrument") used to express dissatisfaction in play-houses, from cat (n.) + call (n.); presumably because it sounded like an angry cat. As a verb, attested from 1734.ETD catcall (n.).2

    catch (n.)

    late 14c., "device to hold a latch of a door," also "a trap;" also "a fishing vessel," from catch (v.). The meaning "action of catching" is attested from 1570s. The meaning "that which is caught or worth catching" (later especially of spouses) is from 1590s. The sense of "hidden cost, qualification, etc.; something by which the unwary may be entrapped" is slang first attested 1855 in writings of P.T. Barnum.ETD catch (n.).2

    catching (adj.)

    1580s, of diseases, "communicating, infectious," present-participle adjective from catch (v.). From 1650s as "captivating." Related: Catchingly.ETD catching (adj.).2

    catch (v.)

    c. 1200, "to take, capture," from Anglo-French or Old North French cachier "catch, capture" animals (Old French chacier "hunt, pursue, drive" animals, Modern French chasser "to hunt"), from Vulgar Latin *captiare "try to seize, chase" (also source of Spanish cazar, Italian cacciare), from Latin captare "to take, hold," frequentative of capere "to take, hold" (from PIE root *kap- "to grasp"). A doublet of chase (v.).ETD catch (v.).2

    Its senses in early Middle English also included "to chase, hunt," which later went with chase (v.). Of sleep, etc., from early 14c.; of infections from 1540s; of fire from 1734 (compare Greek aptō "fasten, join, attach, grasp, touch," also "light, kindle, set on fire, catch on fire"). Related: Catched (obsolete); catching; caught.ETD catch (v.).3

    The meaning "act as a catcher in baseball" is recorded from 1865. To catch on "apprehend, understand" is by 1884, American English colloquial. To catch the eye "draw the attention" is attested by 1718. Catch as catch can has roots in late 14c. (cacche who that cacche might).ETD catch (v.).4

    Catch-22 (n.)

    from the title of Joseph Heller's 1961 novel, but the phrase became widespread after release of the movie based on the book in 1970. The catch (n.) is that a bomber pilot is insane if he flies combat missions without asking to be relieved from duty, and thus he is eligible to be relieved from duty. But asking to be relieved from duty indicates sanity and thus he must keep flying missions.ETD Catch-22 (n.).2

    catchable (adj.)

    "able to be caught," 1690s, from catch (v.) + -able.ETD catchable (adj.).2

    catch-all (n.)

    also catchall, "something used as a general receptacle for odds and ends," 1838, from catch (v.) + all.ETD catch-all (n.).2

    catcher (n.)

    "one who catches," in any sense, mid-14c., agent noun from catch (v.). Baseball sense is from 1867.ETD catcher (n.).2

    catchy (adj.)

    "having the quality of 'catching' in the mind," 1831, from catch (v.) + -y (2). Considered colloquial at first. Related: Catchiness.ETD catchy (adj.).2

    It is attested earlier (1827) in medical writing with reference to breathing, and was noted by Jamieson (1818) and others as a Scottish word for "quick to learn; disposed to take advantage of another."ETD catchy (adj.).3

    catchment (n.)

    "drainage," 1844, from catch (v.) + -ment. A technical word in hydraulic engineering.ETD catchment (n.).2

    catchpenny (n.)

    "something of little value but externally attractive and made to sell quickly," 1760, from catch (v.) + penny (n.). It will catch a penny. Also as an adjective.ETD catchpenny (n.).2

    catch-phrase (n.)

    also catchphrase, "phrase caught up and repeated," 1837, from catch (v.) + phrase (n.). The notion is of words that will "catch" in the mind (compare catchword, which is older and might have suggested this word; also catchy). From the first in a political context, also of lines from plays that became popular.ETD catch-phrase (n.).2

    catchpoll (n.)

    late Old English cachepol "tax-gatherer," from Old North French cachepol (Old French chacepol), from Medieval Latin cacepollus "a tax gatherer," perhaps literally "chase-chicken." For first element see chase (v.), for second see pullet. The explanation would be that, in lieu of taxes they would confiscate poultry. Later in English more specifically as "a sheriff's officer whose duty was to make arrests for debt" (late 14c.). Compare Old French chacipolerie "tax paid to a nobleman by his subjects allowing them and their families to shelter in his castle in war-time." The connection of poll (n.) "head" with taxes is from 17c. and too late to be involved in this word.ETD catchpoll (n.).2

    catch-up (n.)

    "a working to overtake a leading rival," by 1971, probably a figurative use from U.S. football in reference to being behind in the score. The verbal phrase catch up was used from early 14c. in the sense of "raise aloft," it is attested from c. 1400 as "to take up suddenly," and by 1846 in the sense of "get to the same point, overtake;" see catch (v.) + up (adv.).ETD catch-up (n.).2

    catchup (n.)

    see ketchup.ETD catchup (n.).2

    catchword (n.)

    1730, "the first word of the following page inserted at the lower right-hand corner of each page of a book," as a guide to the binders, from catch (v.) + word (n.); extended to "word caught up and repeated" (especially in the political sense) by 1795. The thing in the literal sense is extinct; the figurative sense thrives.ETD catchword (n.).2

    catdom (n.)

    "cats generally, the realm of cats," 1853, from cat (n.) + -dom.ETD catdom (n.).2

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