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[kach] /kætʃ/
verb (used with object), caught, catching.
to seize or capture, especially after pursuit:
to catch a criminal; to catch a runaway horse.
to trap or ensnare:
to catch a fish.
to intercept and seize; take and hold (something thrown, falling, etc.):
to catch a ball; a barrel to catch rain.
to come upon suddenly; surprise or detect, as in some action:
I caught him stealing the pumpkin.
to receive, incur, or contract:
to catch a cold.
to be in time to get aboard (a train, boat, etc.).
to lay hold of; grasp; clasp:
He caught her arm.
to grip, hook, or entangle:
The closing door caught his arm.
to allow (something) to become gripped, hooked, snagged, or entangled:
He caught his coat on a nail.
to attract or arrest:
The painting caught his fancy. His speech caught our attention.
to check or restrain suddenly (often used reflexively):
She caught her breath in surprise. He caught himself before he said the wrong thing.
to see or attend:
to catch a show.
to strike; hit:
The blow caught him on the head.
to become inspired by or aware of:
I caught the spirit of the occasion.
to fasten with or as if with a catch:
to catch the clasp on a necklace.
to deceive:
No one was caught by his sugary words.
to attract the attention of; captivate; charm:
She was caught by his smile and good nature.
to grasp with the intellect; comprehend:
She failed to catch his meaning.
to hear clearly:
We caught snatches of their conversation.
to apprehend and record; capture:
The painting caught her expression perfectly.
South Midland and Southern U.S. to assist at the birth of:
The town doctor caught more than four hundred children before he retired.
verb (used without object), caught, catching.
to become gripped, hooked, or entangled:
Her foot caught in the net.
to overtake someone or something moving (usually followed by up, up with, or up to).
to take hold:
The door lock doesn't catch.
Baseball. to play the position of catcher,
He catches for the Yankees.
to become lighted; take fire; ignite:
The kindling caught instantly.
to become established, as a crop or plant, after germination and sprouting.
the act of catching.
anything that catches, especially a device for checking motion, as a latch on a door.
any tricky or concealed drawback:
It seems so easy that there must be a catch somewhere.
a slight, momentary break or crack in the voice.
that which is caught, as a quantity of fish:
The fisherman brought home a large catch.
a person or thing worth getting, especially a person regarded as a desirable matrimonial prospect:
My mother thinks Pat would be quite a catch.
a game in which a ball is thrown from one person to another:
to play catch; to have a catch.
a fragment:
catches of a song.
Music. a round, especially one in which the words are so arranged as to produce ludicrous effects.
Sports. the catching and holding of a batted or thrown ball before it touches the ground.
Rowing. the first part of the stroke, consisting of the placing of the oar into the water.
Agriculture. the establishment of a crop from seed:
a catch of clover.
catchy (def 3).
Verb phrases
catch at, to grasp at eagerly; accept readily:
He caught at the chance to get free tickets.
catch on,
  1. to become popular:
    That new song is beginning to catch on.
  2. to grasp mentally; understand:
    You'd think he'd catch on that he's boring us.
  3. New England. (in cooking) to scorch or burn slightly; sear:
    A pot roast is better if allowed to catch on.
catch out, Chiefly British. to catch or discover (a person) in deceit or an error.
catch up,
  1. to lift or snatch suddenly:
    Leaves were caught up in the wind.
  2. to bring or get up to date (often followed by on or with):
    to catch up on one's reading.
  3. to come up to or overtake (something or someone) (usually followed by with):
    to catch up with the leader in a race.
  4. to become involved or entangled with:
    caught up in the excitement of the crowd.
  5. to point out to (a person) minor errors, untruths, etc. (usually followed by on):
    We caught the teacher up on a number of factual details.
  6. Falconry. to capture for further training (a hawk that has been flown at hack).
  7. South Midland and Southern U.S. to harness (a horse or mule).
catch a crab, (in rowing) to bungle a stroke by failing to get the oar into the water at the beginning or by failing to withdraw it properly at the end.
catch a turn, Nautical. to wind a rope around a bitt, capstan, etc., for one full turn.
catch it, Informal. to receive a reprimand or punishment:
He'll catch it from his mother for tearing his good trousers again.
Origin of catch
1175-1225; Middle English cacchen to chase, capture < Old North French cachier < Vulgar Latin *captiāre, for Latin captāre to grasp at, seek out, try to catch, frequentative of capere to take
Related forms
catchable, adjective
outcatch, verb (used with object), outcaught, outcatching.
uncatchable, adjective
1. apprehend, arrest. 17. enchant, fascinate, win. 28. capture, apprehension, arrest. 29. ratchet, bolt.
1, 7, 28. release.
Synonym Study
7. Catch, clutch, grasp, seize imply taking hold suddenly of something. To catch may be to reach after and get: He caught my hand. To clutch is to take firm hold of (often out of fear or nervousness), and retain: The child clutched her mother's hand. To grasp also suggests both getting and keeping hold of, with a connotation of eagerness and alertness, rather than fear (literally or figuratively): to grasp someone's hand in welcome; to grasp an idea. To seize implies the use of force or energy in taking hold of suddenly (literally or figuratively): to seize a criminal; to seize an opportunity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for catch out
Historical Examples
  • Then everybody goes in with their hands and throws the catch out on the sand.

  • "All right," he said, fighting hard to keep the catch out of his voice.

  • For a while she just sat still and tried to get the catch out of her breathing.

    The Real Adventure

    Henry Kitchell Webster
  • Then the fielder woke up, and threw to second, hoping to catch out Holly, who was somewhat undecided.

    Batting to Win Lester Chadwick
  • I catch out on an average about eighteen to twenty every fall, so as to catch them before they increase early in the spring.

  • As the detective, with a smart blow back of its head, put his catch out of misery, Bartlett spoke.

    The Golf Course Mystery Chester K. Steele
British Dictionary definitions for catch out

catch out

(transitive, adverb) (informal, mainly Brit) to trap (a person), esp in an error or doing something reprehensible


verb catches, catching, caught
(transitive) to take hold of so as to retain or restrain: he caught the ball
(transitive) to take, seize, or capture, esp after pursuit
(transitive) to ensnare or deceive, as by trickery
(transitive) to surprise or detect in an act: he caught the dog rifling the larder
(transitive) to reach with a blow: the stone caught him on the side of the head
(transitive) to overtake or reach in time to board: if we hurry we should catch the next bus
(transitive) to see or hear; attend: I didn't catch the Ibsen play
(transitive) to be infected with: to catch a cold
to hook or entangle or become hooked or entangled: her dress caught on a nail
to fasten or be fastened with or as if with a latch or other device
(transitive) to attract or arrest: she tried to catch his eye
(transitive) to comprehend: I didn't catch his meaning
(transitive) to hear accurately: I didn't catch what you said
(transitive) to captivate or charm
(transitive) to perceive and reproduce accurately: the painter managed to catch his model's beauty
(transitive) to hold back or restrain: he caught his breath in surprise
(intransitive) to become alight: the fire won't catch
(transitive) (cricket) to dismiss (a batsman) by intercepting and holding a ball struck by him before it touches the ground
(intransitive) often foll by at
  1. to grasp or attempt to grasp
  2. to take advantage (of), esp eagerly: he caught at the chance
(intransitive; used passively) (informal) to make pregnant
(informal) catch it, to be scolded or reprimanded
(slang) catch oneself on, to realize that one's actions are mistaken
the act of catching or grasping
a device that catches and fastens, such as a latch
anything that is caught, esp something worth catching
the amount or number caught
(informal) a person regarded as an eligible matrimonial prospect
a check or break in the voice
a break in a mechanism
  1. a concealed, unexpected, or unforeseen drawback or handicap
  2. (as modifier): a catch question
a game in which a ball is thrown from one player to another
(cricket) the catching of a ball struck by a batsman before it touches the ground, resulting in him being out
(music) a type of round popular in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, having a humorous text that is often indecent or bawdy and hard to articulate See round (sense 31), canon1 (sense 7)
Derived Forms
catchable, adjective
Word Origin
C13 cacchen to pursue, from Old Northern French cachier, from Latin captāre to snatch, from capere to seize
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 catch out



late 14c., "device to hold a latch of a door," also "a trap;" also "a fishing vessel," from catch (v.). Meaning "action of catching" attested from 1570s. Meaning "that which is caught or worth catching" (later especially of spouses) is from 1590s. Sense of "hidden cost, qualification, etc." is slang first recorded 1855 in P.T. Barnum.



c.1200, "to take, capture," from Anglo-French or Old North French cachier "catch, capture" (animals) (Old French chacier "hunt, pursue, drive (animals)," Modern French chasser "to hunt;" making it a doublet of chase (v.)), from Vulgar Latin *captiare "try to seize, chase" (also source of Spanish cazar, Italian cacciare), from Latin captare "to take, hold," frequentative of Latin capere "to take, hold" (see capable).

Senses in early Middle English also included "chase, hunt," which later went with chase (v.). Of infections from 1540s; of fire from 1734; of sleep, etc., from early 14c. Related: Catched (obsolete); catching; caught.

Meaning "act as a catcher in baseball" recorded from 1865. To catch on "apprehend" is 1884, American English colloquial. To catch (someone's) eye is first attested 1813, in Jane Austen. Catch as catch can first attested late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for catch out



  1. A highly desirable acquisition or engagement: Getting Von Karajan for our benefit would be a catch (1740s+)
  2. A hidden cost, qualification, defect, etc; something to make one think twice: It looks like all gravy, but there's a catch to it (1855+)


  1. To see, hear, or attend a particular entertainment: I caught Mickey Rooney on TV (1906+)
  2. catch on (1880s+)
  3. To do desk duty, answering the telephone and receiving complaints: Thompson was catching in the squad room at Manhattan South (1950s+ Police)
  4. To be penetrated in an anal sex act (1970s+ Homosexual)

Related Terms

shoestring catch

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with catch out
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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