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

  • n. Medicine Purgation, especially for the digestive system.
  • n. A purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions, especially pity and fear, described by Aristotle as an effect of tragic drama on its audience.
  • n. A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.
  • n. Psychology A technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness.
  • n. Psychology The therapeutic result of this process; abreaction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A release of emotional tension after an overwhelming vicarious experience, resulting in the purging or purification of the emotions, as through watching a dramatic production (especially a tragedy). Coined in this sense by Aristotle.
  • n. Any release of emotional tension to the same effect, more widely.
  • n. A purification or cleansing, especially emotional.
  • n. A therapeutic technique to relieve tension.
  • n. Purging of the digestive system.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A natural or artificial purgation of any passage, as of the mouth, bowels, etc.
  • n. The process of relieving an abnormal excitement by reëstablishing the association of the emotion with the memory or idea of the event that first caused it, and of eliminating it by complete expression (called the abreaction).

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In medicine, a natural or artificial purgation of any passage, especially the bowels. Also called apocatharsis.
  • n. Used in English to express whatever Aristotle is supposed to have meant by the same word.

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

  • n. purging the body by the use of a cathartic to stimulate evacuation of the bowels
  • n. (psychoanalysis) purging of emotional tensions


New Latin, from Greek katharsis, from kathairein, to purge, from katharos, pure.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek κάθαρσις (katharsis, "cleansing, purging"), from καθαίρω (kathairō, "I cleanse") (Wiktionary)



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  • Michael appointed his son manager of the Banana Stand, but they later burned it down in an act of catharsis.

    January 18, 2007