from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The metabolic breakdown of complex molecules into simpler ones, often resulting in a release of energy.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. destructive metabolism, usually including the release of energy and breakdown of materials

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. the breakdown of more complex substances into simpler ones with release of energy, in living organisms; destructive or downward metabolism; -- a form of metabolism, opposed to anabolism. See also disassimilation.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In physiology, that phase of metabolism which consists in “a downward series of changes in which complex bodies are broken down with the setting free of energy into simpler and simpler waste bodies” (M. Foster): opposed to anabolism.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. breakdown in living organisms of more complex substances into simpler ones together with release of energy


cata- + (meta)bolism.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek καταβολή (katabolē, "throwing down"), from κατά (kata, "down") + βάλλω (ballō, "I throw"). (Wiktionary)



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  • "You can accuse the disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer of many things in his decision to flout the law by soliciting the services of a pricey prostitute: hypocrisy, egomania, sophomoric impulsiveness and self-indulgence, delusional ineptitude and boneheadedness. But one trait decidedly not on display in Mr. Spitzer’s splashy act of whole-life catabolism was originality."
    The New York Times, "In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy", by Natalie Angier, March 18, 2008

    March 18, 2008