[ kuh-tas-truh-fahyz ]
/ kəˈtæs trəˌfaɪz /

verb (used with or without object), ca·tas·tro·phized, ca·tas·tro·phiz·ing.

to view or talk about (an event or situation) as worse than it actually is, or as if it were a catastrophe: Stop catastrophizing and get on with your life!She tends to catastrophize her symptoms.



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Origin of catastrophize

First recorded in 1960–65; catastroph(e) + -ize Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does catastrophize mean?

To catastrophize is to think of a situation as much worse than it really is—to act as if a negative circumstance is the worst possible scenario.

A catastrophe is a disaster or an utter failure or fiasco—it’s when something has gone wrong in the worst way. Catastrophize comes from psychology but is now also used in everyday speech. In British English, it’s usually spelled catastrophise.

Example: I wish you wouldn’t catastrophize,” she said. “Things really aren’t that bad!

Where does catastrophize come from?

Catastrophize is a combination of catastrophe (from the Greek katastrophḗ, meaning “an overturning”) and the suffix -ize, meaning to “convert into.” So when you catastrophize something, you turn it into a catastrophe even though it’s not really that bad.

Catastrophe has been in use since the 1500s. Catastrophize has been recorded in use since the 1600s, when it had the now-obsolete meaning of “to end a comedy or other form of play.” The first record of its modern sense comes from the 1960s from the field of psychology. It is especially used in the discussion of stress, anxiety, and related disorders. A person who catastrophizes may see their symptoms as much worse than they really are, or they may blow a negative event out of proportion (for example, by saying that they’ll never graduate or get a job or be able to buy a house because they got one B on a test). Like many psychology terms, catastrophize has passed into popular use.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of catastrophize?

What are some words that share a root or word element with catastrophize?


What are some words that often get used in discussing catastrophize?


How is catastrophize used in real life?

Catastrophize is used in psychology but it has become common enough to be applied to other subjects in everyday speech.

Try using catastrophize!

Which of these common sayings has a meaning similar to catastrophize?

  1. Make a mountain out of a molehill
  2. Beat around the bush
  3. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen