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  1. misuse or strained use of words, as in a mixed metaphor, occurring either in error or for rhetorical effect.

Origin of catachresis

1580–90; < Latin < Greek: a misuse (akin to katachrêsthai to misuse), equivalent to kata- cata- + chrêsis use (chrê(sthai) to use, need + -sis -sis)
Related formscat·a·chres·tic [kat-uh-kres-tik] /ˌkæt əˈkrɛs tɪk/, cat·a·chres·ti·cal, adjectivecat·a·chres·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for catachresis

Historical Examples

  • You must listen to the definition of a catachresis:—'A catachresis is the boldest of any trope.

    Tales And Novels, Volume 4 (of 10)

    Maria Edgeworth

  • It is a sort of quaint alteration or catachresis of Possunt quia posse videntur.

  • It is true that might be taken by catachresis to designate a chamberlain as functionary of the Oriental Court.

    The Apostles

    Ernest Renan

  • The hyperbole and catachresis are so nearly related to a bull, that I shall dwell upon them with pleasure.

  • Life is attributed to plants, only by a species of metaphor or catachresis.

    A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 7 (of 10)

    Franois-Marie Arouet (AKA Voltaire)

British Dictionary definitions for catachresis


  1. the incorrect use of words, as luxuriant for luxurious
Derived Formscatachrestic (ˌkætəˈkrɛstɪk) or catachrestical, adjectivecatachrestically, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from Latin, from Greek katakhrēsis a misusing, from katakhrēsthai, from khrēsthai to use
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

Word Origin and History for catachresis


1580s, from Latin catachresis, from Greek katakhresis "misuse" (of a word), from katakhresthai "to misuse," from kata- "down" (here with a sense of "perversion;" see cata-) + khresthai "to use" (see hortatory). Related: Catachrestic; catachrestical; catachrestically.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper