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[kat-uh-rakt] /ˈkæt əˌrækt/
a descent of water over a steep surface; a waterfall, especially one of considerable size.
any furious rush or downpour of water; deluge.
  1. an abnormality of the eye, characterized by opacity of the lens.
  2. the opaque area.
Origin of cataract
1350-1400; Middle English cataracte < Latin catar(r)acta < Greek katarráktēs waterfall, floodgate, portcullis (noun), downrushing (adj.), akin to katarássein to dash down, equivalent to kat- cata- + arássein to smite
Related forms
cataractal, cataractous, adjective
cataracted, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cataract
Historical Examples
  • That river has a cataract or fall, at about an hundred and fifty leagues from its confluence.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • A lake had burst on its summit, and the cataract became a falling Ocean.

    Vivian Grey Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli
  • You must be in a hurry to do it, too, coming downstairs like a cataract.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • Lady O'Moy was in an emotional maelstrom that swept her towards a cataract.

    The Snare Rafael Sabatini
  • I crossed it dry-shod at day-break, and now, it is a cataract.

    The O'Donoghue Charles James Lever
  • He heard it over the noise of the waters he had been swept away from the cataract.

  • There was only one thing to be done—he must ride the cataract.

  • But this cataract of dried leaves, too, is a study in the rhythms of the dead.

    The Book of the Damned Charles Fort
  • I paused involuntarily a hundred paces from the brink of the cataract.

    Ernest Linwood Caroline Lee Hentz
  • We had noticed this also in Lodore, but in cataract it was more common.

    A Canyon Voyage Frederick S. Dellenbaugh
British Dictionary definitions for cataract


a large waterfall or rapids
a deluge; downpour
  1. partial or total opacity of the crystalline lens of the eye
  2. the opaque area
Word Origin
C15: from Latin catarracta, from Greek katarrhaktēs, from katarassein to dash down, from arassein to strike
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 cataract

early 15c., "a waterfall, floodgate," from Latin cataracta "waterfall," from Greek katarhaktes "waterfall, broken water; a kind of portcullis," noun use of an adjective compound meaning "swooping, down-rushing," from kata "down" (see cata-). The second element is traced either to arhattein "to strike hard" (in which case the compound is kat-arrhattein), or to rhattein "to dash, break."

Its alternative sense in Latin of "portcullis" probably was passed through French to form the English meaning "eye disease" (early 15c.), on the notion of "obstruction" (to eyesight).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cataract in Medicine

cataract cat·a·ract (kāt'ə-rākt')
Opacity of the lens or capsule of the eye, causing impairment of vision or blindness.

cat'a·rac'tous (-rāk'təs) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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cataract in Science
  1. An opacity of the lens of the eye or the membrane that covers it, causing impairment of vision or blindness.

  2. A waterfall in which a large volume of water flows over a steep precipice.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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cataract in Culture
cataract [(kat-uh-rakt)]

A loss in the transparency of the lens of the eye, which reduces a person's ability to see. The condition can be treated by surgically removing the lens and replacing it with an artificial one, or with corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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