cataclysmic (adj.) Look up cataclysmic at Dictionary.com
1837, from cataclysm + -ic. Related: Cataclysmical (1857); cataclysmically.
catacomb (n.) Look up catacomb at Dictionary.com
usually catacombs, from Old English catacumbas, from Late Latin (400 C.E.) catacumbae (plural), originally the region of underground tombs 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), origin obscure, 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).

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.
catafalque (n.) Look up catafalque at Dictionary.com
1640s, from French catafalque (17c.), from Italian catafalco "scaffold," 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."
Catalan (adj.) Look up Catalan at Dictionary.com
"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 means "chiefs of battle." As a noun meaning "a Catalan," Middle English used Catelaner (mid-14c.), Catellain (early 15c., from French). As a language name in English by 1792. Related: Catalonian (1707).
catalectic (adj.) Look up catalectic at Dictionary.com
1580s, in 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.
catalepsy (n.) Look up catalepsy at Dictionary.com
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).
cataleptic (adj.) Look up cataleptic at Dictionary.com
1680s, from Late Latin catalepticus, from Greek kataleptikos, from kataleptos (see catalepsy). The noun meaning "one affected by catalepsy" is from 1851.
catalog Look up catalog at Dictionary.com
see catalogue.
catalogue (v.) Look up catalogue at Dictionary.com
1590s, "to make a catalogue;" see catalogue (n.). From 1630s as "to enter into a catalogue." Related: Catalogued; cataloguing.
catalogue (n.) Look up catalogue at Dictionary.com
early 15c., 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 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')."
catalpa (n.) Look up catalpa at Dictionary.com
c. 1740, from an American Indian language of the Carolinas, perhaps Creek (Muskogean) /katalpa/, literally "head-wing."
catalyse (v.) Look up catalyse at Dictionary.com
variant spelling of catalyze (q.v.); for spelling, see -ize. Related: Catalysed; catalysing.
catalysis (n.) Look up catalysis at Dictionary.com
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"). Chemical sense "change caused by an agent which itself remains unchanged" is attested from 1836, introduced by Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848).
catalyst (n.) Look up catalyst at Dictionary.com
"substance which speeds a chemical reaction but itself remains unchanged," 1902, formed in English (on analogy of analyst) from catalysis. Figurative use by 1943.
catalytic (adj.) Look up catalytic at Dictionary.com
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").
catalyze (v.) Look up catalyze at Dictionary.com
1890, back-formation from catalysis on model of analyze/analysis. Related: Catalyzed; catalyzing. Probably influenced by French catalyser (1842).
catamaran (n.) Look up catamaran at Dictionary.com
East Indies log raft, 1670s, from Tamil kattu-maram "tied wood," from kattu "tie, binding" + maram "wood, tree."
catamite (n.) Look up catamite at Dictionary.com
"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.
catamount (n.) Look up catamount at Dictionary.com
1660s, shortening of cat-o'-mountain (1610s), from cat of the mountain (early 15c.), a name aplied to various types of wildcat.
cataphract (n.) Look up cataphract at Dictionary.com
"coat of mail," Middle English, from Latin cataphractes "breastplate of iron scales," from Greek kataphraktes "coat of mail," from kataphraktos "covered up," from kataphrassein "to fortify," from kata "entirely" (see cata-) + phrassein "to fence around, enclose, defend" (see diaphragm).
cataplexy (n.) Look up cataplexy at Dictionary.com
"the state of an animal when it is feigning death," 1883, from German kataplexie, from Greek kataplexis "stupefaction, amazement, consternation," from kataplessein "to strike down" (with fear, etc.), from kata "down" (see cata-) + plessein "to strike, hit" (from PIE root *plak- (2) "to strike"). Related: Cataplectic.
catapult (v.) Look up catapult at Dictionary.com
1848, "to throw with a catapult," from catapult (n.). Intransitive sense by 1928. Related: Catapulted; catapulting.
catapult (n.) Look up catapult at Dictionary.com
1570s, from Middle French catapulte and directly from Latin catapulta "war machine for throwing," from Greek katapeltes, 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"). As an airplane-launching device on an aircraft-carrier by 1927.
cataract (n.) Look up cataract at Dictionary.com
early 15c., "a waterfall, floodgate," from Latin cataracta "waterfall," from Greek katarhaktes "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."

Its alternative sense in Latin of "portcullis" probably was passed through French to form the English meaning "eye disease" (early 15c.), on the notion of "obstruction" (to eyesight).
catarrh (n.) Look up catarrh at Dictionary.com
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: Catarrhalcatarrhous.
catastrophe (n.) Look up catastrophe at Dictionary.com
1530s, "reversal of what is expected" (especially a fatal turning point in a drama), from Latin catastropha, from Greek katastrophe "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" (from PIE root *streb(h)- "to wind, turn"). Extension to "sudden disaster" is first recorded 1748.
catastrophic (adj.) Look up catastrophic at Dictionary.com
1824, from catastrophe + -ic. Related: Catastrophical; catastrophically.
catastrophism (n.) Look up catastrophism at Dictionary.com
as a geological or biological theory, 1869, coined by Huxley from catastrophe + -ism.
By CATASTROPHISM I mean any form of geological speculation which, in order to account for the phenomena of geology, supposes the operation of forces different in their nature, or immeasurably different in power, from those which we at present see in action in the universe. [T.H. Huxley, "Address" to the Geological Society of London, Feb. 19, 1869]
Related: Catastrophist.
catatonia (n.) Look up catatonia at Dictionary.com
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.
catatonic (adj.) Look up catatonic at Dictionary.com
1899, from catatonia + -ic. As a noun from 1902.
catawampus (adj.) Look up catawampus at Dictionary.com
also catawampous, cattywampus, catiwampus, etc. (see "Dictionary of American Slang" for more), American colloquial. First element perhaps from obsolete cater "to set or move diagonally" (see catty-cornered); second element perhaps related to Scottish wampish "to wriggle, twist, or swerve about." Or perhaps simply the sort of jocular pseudo-classical formation popular in the slang of those times, with the first element suggesting Greek kata-.

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."
Catawba (n.) Look up Catawba at Dictionary.com
type of American grape, 1857, the name is that of a river in South Carolina, U.S., where the grape was found. The river is named for the Katahba Indian group and language (Siouan), from katapu "fork of a stream," itself a Muskogean loan-word.
catbird (n.) Look up catbird at Dictionary.com
1731, common name for the North American thrush (Dumetella Carolinensis), so called from its warning cry, which resembles that of a cat; from cat (n.) + bird (n.1). Catbird seat is a 19c. Dixieism, popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball announcer Red Barber and by author James Thurber (1942).
"She must be a Dodger fan," he had said. "Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions--picked 'em up down South." Joey had gone on to explain one or two. "Tearing up the pea patch" meant going on a rampage; "sitting in the catbird seat" means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him. [James Thurber, "The Catbird Seat," "The New Yorker," Nov. 14, 1942]
catcall (n.) Look up catcall at Dictionary.com
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.
catch (n.) Look up catch at Dictionary.com
late 14c., "device to hold a latch of a door," also "a trap;" also "a fishing vessel," from catch (v.). Meaning "action of catching" attested from 1570s. Meaning "that which is caught or worth catching" (later especially of spouses) is from 1590s. Sense of "hidden cost, qualification, etc." is slang first recorded 1855 in P.T. Barnum.
catch (v.) Look up catch at Dictionary.com
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;" making it a doublet of chase (v.)), 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."

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

Meaning "act as a catcher in baseball" recorded from 1865. To catch on "apprehend" is 1884, American English colloquial. To catch (someone's) eye is first attested 1813, in Jane Austen. Catch as catch can first attested late 14c.
Catch-22 (n.) Look up Catch-22 at Dictionary.com
from the title of Joseph Heller's 1961 novel. In widespread use only after release of the movie based on the book in 1970. The "catch" is that a bomber pilot is insane if he flies combat missions without asking to be relieved from duty, and is thus eligible to be relieved from duty. But if he asks to be relieved from duty, that means he's sane and has to keep flying.
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.
See catch (n.).
catch-all (n.) Look up catch-all at Dictionary.com
also catchall, 1838, from catch (v.) + all.
catch-up (n.) Look up catch-up at Dictionary.com
"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. From verbal phrase catch up, which was used from early 14c. in sense "raise aloft" and from 1855 in sense "overtake;" see catch (v.) + up (adv.).
catcher (n.) Look up catcher at Dictionary.com
"one who catches," in any sense, mid-14c., agent noun from catch (v.).
catching (adj.) Look up catching at Dictionary.com
1580s, of diseases, present participle adjective from catch (v.). From 1650s as "captivating." Related: Catchingly.
catchment (n.) Look up catchment at Dictionary.com
1844, from catch (v.) + -ment.
catchphrase (n.) Look up catchphrase at Dictionary.com
also catch-phrase, 1837, from catch (v.) + phrase (n.). The notion is of words that will "catch" in the mind (compare catchword).
catchpoll (n.) Look up catchpoll at Dictionary.com
Old English *kæcepol "tax-gatherer," from Old North French cachepol (Old French chacepol), from Medieval Latin cacepollus "a tax gatherer," literally "chase-chicken." For first element see chase (v.), for second see pullet. 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." Compare Old French chacipolerie "tax paid to a nobleman by his subjects allowing them and their families to shelter in his castle in wartime."
catchup (n.) Look up catchup at Dictionary.com
see ketchup.
catchword (n.) Look up catchword at Dictionary.com
1730, "the first word of the following page inserted at the lower right-hand corner of each page of a book," from catch (v.) + word (n.); extended to "word caught up and repeated" (especially in the political sense) by 1795. The literal sense is extinct; the figurative sense thrives.
catchy (adj.) Look up catchy at Dictionary.com
1831, from catch (v.) + -y (2). Considered colloquial at first. Related: Catchiness.
catechesis (n.) Look up catechesis at Dictionary.com
from Greek katekhesis "instruction by word of mouth," from katekhein "to instruct orally," originally "to resound" (with sense evolution via "to sound (something) in someone's ear; to teach by word of mouth." From kata- "down" (in this case, "thoroughly") + ekhein "to sound, ring," from ekhe "sound," from PIE *(s)wagh- "to resound" (see echo (n.)). Related: Catachectic; catachectical.
catechise (v.) Look up catechise at Dictionary.com
chiefly British English spelling of catechize; for suffix, see -ize. Related: Catechised; catechising.
catechism (n.) Look up catechism at Dictionary.com
c. 1500, "instruction in Christian principles," also "elementary question-and-answer book of religious instruction," from French catéchisme (14c.) and directly from Church Latin catechismus "book of instruction," from Greek katekhismos, from katekhizein "to teach orally" (see catechize). Related: Catechismal.