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[kuh-thahr-sis] /kəˈθɑr sɪs/
noun, plural catharses
[kuh-thahr-seez] /kəˈθɑr siz/ (Show IPA)
the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
Medicine/Medical. purgation.
  1. psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable affects.
  2. discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.
Origin of catharsis
1795-1805; < New Latin < Greek kátharsis a cleansing, equivalent to kathar- (variant stem of kathaírein to cleanse, derivative of katharós pure) + -sis -sis
Related forms
hypercatharsis, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for catharsis
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It does not touch the ‘catharsis’ of tragedy, which is another matter.

  • Evacuations by venesection and catharsis, and then by the exhibition of opium.

    Zoonomia, Vol. II

    Erasmus Darwin
  • There are certainly times when catharsis is necessary but "one thing is certain, the day for routine purgation is past."

    Outwitting Our Nerves Josephine A. Jackson and Helen M. Salisbury
  • He however refers only to the catharsis upon the spectator, but not to that of the author's work upon himself.

    The Literature of Ecstasy Albert Mordell
  • He had no sympathy with the poetry that had a social message and he did not understand its effect as a catharsis.

    The Literature of Ecstasy Albert Mordell
British Dictionary definitions for catharsis


noun (pl) -ses
(in Aristotelian literary criticism) the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear, as in tragedy
(psychoanal) the bringing of repressed ideas or experiences into consciousness, thus relieving tensions See also abreaction
purgation, esp of the bowels
Word Origin
C19: New Latin, from Greek katharsis, from kathairein to purge, purify
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 catharsis

1803, "bodily purging," from Latinized form of Greek katharsis "purging, cleansing," from stem of kathairein "to purify, purge," from katharos "pure, clear of dirt, clean, spotless; open, free; clear of shame or guilt; purified" (with most of the extended senses now found in Modern English clear, clean, pure), of unknown origin. Originally medical in English; of emotions from 1872; psychotherapy sense first recorded 1909, in Brill's translation of Freud.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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catharsis in Medicine

catharsis ca·thar·sis (kə-thär'sĭs)
n. pl. ca·thar·ses (-sēz)

  1. Purgation.

  2. A psychological technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness.

  3. The therapeutic result of this process; abreaction.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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catharsis in Culture
catharsis [(kuh-thahr-suhs)]

An experience of emotional release and purification, often inspired by or through art. In psychoanalysis, catharsis is the release of tension and anxiety that results from bringing repressed feelings and memories into consciousness.

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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