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a prefix meaning “down,” “against,” “back,” occurring originally in loanwords from Greek (cataclysm; catalog; catalepsy); on this model, used in the formation of other compound words (catagenesis; cataphyll).
Also, especially before a vowel, cat-; cath-, kata-.
Origin of cata-
< Greek kata-, combining form of katá down, through, against, according to, towards, during Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for cata-


down; downwards; lower in position: catadromous, cataphyll
indicating reversal, opposition, degeneration, etc: cataplasia, catatonia
Word Origin
from Greek kata-, from kata. In compound words borrowed from Greek, kata- means: down (catabolism), away, off (catalectic), against (category), according to (catholic), and thoroughly (catalogue)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cata-

word-forming element from Latinized form of Greek kata-, before vowels kat-, from kata "down from, down to." Its principal sense is "down," but occasionally it has senses of "against" (catapult)or "wrongly" (catachresis). 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cata- in Medicine

cata- pref.

  1. Down: catabolism.

  2. Reverse; backward; degenerative: cataplasia.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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