Definitions

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

  • n. The point of greatest intensity or force in an ascending series or progression; a culmination. See Synonyms at summit.
  • n. A series of statements or ideas in an ascending order of rhetorical force or intensity.
  • n. The final statement in such a series.
  • n. A moment of great or culminating intensity in a narrative or drama, especially the conclusion of a crisis.
  • n. The turning point in a plot or dramatic action.
  • n. See orgasm.
  • n. A stage in ecological development in which a community of organisms, especially plants, is stable and capable of perpetuating itself. Also called climax community.
  • transitive v. To bring to or reach a climax.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The point of greatest intensity or force in an ascending series; a culmination
  • n. The turning point in a plot or in dramatic action, especially one marking a change in the protagonist's affairs.
  • n. A stage of ecological development in which a community of organisms, is stable and capable of perpetuating itself.
  • n. An orgasm.
  • n. : Ordering of terms in increasing order of importance or magnitude.
  • n. : Anadiplosis.
  • v. To reach or bring to a climax
  • v. To orgasm; to reach orgasm

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Upward movement; steady increase; gradation; ascent.
  • n. A figure in which the parts of a sentence or paragraph are so arranged that each succeeding one rises above its predecessor in impressiveness.
  • n. The highest point; the greatest degree.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In rhetoric, originally, such an arrangement of successive clauses that the last important word of one is repeated as the first important word of the next; accumulated epanastrophe; hence (since this arrangement is generally adopted for the sake of graduated increase in force or emphasis), a figure by which a series of clauses or phrases is so arranged that each in turn surpasses the preceding one in intensity of expression or importance of meaning. See anticlimax.
  • n. In logic: A sorites, or chain of reasoning.
  • n. The sophism called sorites (which see).
  • n. The highest point of intensity, development, etc.; the culmination; acme: as, he was then at the climax of his fortunes.
  • To reach the highest point or climax; culminate.

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

  • n. the most severe stage of a disease
  • n. the decisive moment in a novel or play
  • n. arrangement of clauses in ascending order of forcefulness
  • n. the moment of most intense pleasure in sexual intercourse
  • n. the highest point of anything conceived of as growing or developing or unfolding
  • v. end, especially to reach a final or climactic stage

Etymologies

Latin clīmax, rhetorical climax, from Greek klīmax, ladder; see klei- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin clīmax, from Ancient Greek κλῖμαξ (klimaks, "a ladder, a staircase, a climax in rhetoric"), from κλίνω (klinō, "I lean, slant"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The mytho-historical language virus that eats up much of the book has no bearing on the story, the big bad A-Bomb that gets mentioned repeatedly turns out to be of no concern, and the climax is a mob guy beating the bad guy with a skateboard.

    Worst SF/F Book Ever

  • "Stop a bit, Carr; I had not come to it," interrupted Lord Hartledon, who in point of fact had been holding back what he called the climax, in his usual vacillating manner.

    Elster's Folly

  • A work of art can hardly be too short, for its climax is its merit.

    Quoth G.K.C.

  • Wonderful fight sequences is what you expect out of a Swords & Sorcery novel and Sprunk more than delivers … Shadow's Son had me up late at night as nearly every chapter ended in climax after climax of tight action sequences to see how Caim will get out of the next scrape.

    Got Sprunk?

  • The climax is exciting, but there are quite a few holes in the plot, and of course in the interests of tension Will and Faith separately break several “detective 101” rules that any seasoned reader of crime fiction will realise way in advance mean big trouble, and so are merely irritating rather than adding to the suspense.

    Book review

  • Annoyed that once again, you could see the SVU climax from a country mile away?

    Alynda Wheat's Beat Cop: 'Three Rivers' might need some CPR | EW.com

  • Female arousal and climax is foreplay, at least, preparing her for intercourse.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Sex Education, Dirty Words, and the Due Process Clause

  • The story reminded me of Beetlejuice, which I don't think I've seen since it came out -- the climax is still really entertaining to watch.

    Prison Break cake (link roundup)

  • And the films climax is a fight between two Wolfmen amidst an inferno.

    REVIEW: The Wolfman « Giant Killer Squid - Film, Comics, News, Reviews and more

  • One musical climax is annotated with the words "like sun after heavy rain."

    Orchestrating an Extrasensory Sound in Living Color

Comments

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  • to be rung out?-*etymologically speaking*
    *has a certain ring to it!*

    January 28, 2013

  • And don't forget that the derived adjective is climactic!

    November 3, 2008

  • Climax is derived from the Greek word for 'ladder'. And there's more history at the OUP blog.

    August 7, 2008

  • Further research shows that there are also towns named Climax in Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Saskatchewan and Minnesota. The last is just down the road from Fertile, MN ... hence the famous newspaper headline about a fatal car accident: "Fertile Woman Dies in Climax".

    January 2, 2008

  • A ghost town in Colorado, USA. There is no truth in the rumours that it was recently purchased by uselessness.

    Climax was once the highest settlement in the USA. The town was effectively closed down when the molybdenum deposits were worked out.

    January 1, 2008