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 formscatch·a·ble, adjectiveout·catch, verb (used with object), out·caught, out·catch·ing.un·catch·a·ble, adjective

Synonyms for catch

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.

Antonyms for catch

1, 7, 28. release. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for catch at


verb catches, catching or caught

(tr) to take hold of so as to retain or restrainhe caught the ball
(tr) to take, seize, or capture, esp after pursuit
(tr) to ensnare or deceive, as by trickery
(tr) to surprise or detect in an acthe caught the dog rifling the larder
(tr) to reach with a blowthe stone caught him on the side of the head
(tr) to overtake or reach in time to boardif we hurry we should catch the next bus
(tr) to see or hear; attendI didn't catch the Ibsen play
(tr) to be infected withto catch a cold
to hook or entangle or become hooked or entangledher dress caught on a nail
to fasten or be fastened with or as if with a latch or other device
(tr) to attract or arrestshe tried to catch his eye
(tr) to comprehendI didn't catch his meaning
(tr) to hear accuratelyI didn't catch what you said
(tr) to captivate or charm
(tr) to perceive and reproduce accuratelythe painter managed to catch his model's beauty
(tr) to hold back or restrainhe caught his breath in surprise
(intr) to become alightthe fire won't catch
(tr) cricket to dismiss (a batsman) by intercepting and holding a ball struck by him before it touches the ground
(intr often foll by at)
  1. to grasp or attempt to grasp
  2. to take advantage (of), esp eagerlyhe caught at the chance
(intr; used passively) informal to make pregnant
catch it informal to be scolded or reprimanded
catch oneself on slang 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 articulateSee round (def. 31), canon 1 (def. 7)
Derived Formscatchable, adjective

Word Origin for catch

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

Word Origin and History for catch at



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

Idioms and Phrases with catch at

catch at

Snatch, grasp, as in The beggars kept catching at their coats. [c. 1600] Also see grasp at straws.


In addition to the idioms beginning with catch

  • catch as catch can
  • catch at
  • catch a Tartar
  • catch cold
  • catch fire
  • catch in the act
  • catch it
  • catch napping
  • catch off guard
  • catch on
  • catch one's breath
  • catch one's death (of cold)
  • catch red-handed
  • catch sight of
  • catch someone's eye
  • catch some rays
  • catch some z's
  • catch the drift
  • catch up

also see:

  • early bird catches the worm
  • get (catch) the drift
  • takes one to know one (a thief to catch a thief)

Also see undercaught.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.