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[kath-ohd] /ˈkæθ oʊd/
the electrode or terminal by which current leaves an electrolytic cell, voltaic cell, battery, etc.
the positive terminal of a voltaic cell or battery.
the negative terminal, electrode, or element of an electron tube or electrolytic cell.
Origin of cathode
1825-35; < Greek káthodos a way down, equivalent to kat- cat- + hodós way Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cathode
Historical Examples
  • The cathode is preferably formed of the same metal which is to be obtained.

  • To the anode he attached one of the negatives, to the cathode a small piece of iron.

    Spawn of the Comet Harold Thompson Rich
  • Waving away that orange gas, he reached for the cathode and held it up.

    Spawn of the Comet Harold Thompson Rich
  • The cathode as shown in Fig. 41 is rather smaller than is advantageous.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • This may be remedied to some extent by stirring or keeping the cathode in motion.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • The phenomenon is particularly marked at the edges and corners of the cathode.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • He disconnected one of the room's tube-lights and contacted with the cathode.

    Wandl the Invader Raymond King Cummings
  • This is melted in an iron pot which also serves as the cathode in the electrolysis.

  • He applied the current, moving the anode and the cathode slowly.

    The Silent Bullet Arthur B. Reeve
  • The current always flows within the cell from anode to the cathode.

    Physics Willis Eugene Tower
British Dictionary definitions for cathode


the negative electrode in an electrolytic cell; the electrode by which electrons enter a device from an external circuit
the negatively charged electron source in an electronic valve
the positive terminal of a primary cell
Compare anode
Derived Forms
cathodal (kæˈθəʊdəl), cathodic (kæˈθɒdɪk; -ˈθəʊ-), cathodical, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Greek kathodos a descent, from kata- down + hodos way
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 cathode

1834, from Latinized form of Greek kathodos "a way down," from kata- "down" (see cata-) + hodos "way" (see cede). Proposed by the Rev. William Whewell (1794-1866), English polymath, and published by English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867). So called from the path the electric current was supposed to take. Related: Cathodic; cathodal. Cathode ray first attested 1880, but the phenomenon known from 1859; cathode ray tube is from 1905.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cathode in Science
  1. The negative electrode in an electrolytic cell, toward which positively charged particles are attracted. The cathode has a negative charge because it is connected to the negatively charged end of an external power supply.

  2. The source of electrons in an electrical device, such as a vacuum tube or diode.

  3. The positive electrode of a voltaic cell, such as a battery. The cathode gets its positive charge from the chemical reaction that happens inside the battery, not from an external source. Compare anode.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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