See more synonyms for catharsis on
noun, plural ca·thar·ses [kuh-thahr-seez] /kəˈθɑr siz/.
  1. the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
  2. Medicine/Medical. purgation.
  3. Psychiatry.
    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 formshy·per·ca·thar·sis, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for catharsis

Contemporary Examples of catharsis

Historical Examples of catharsis

  • 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.

  • He had no sympathy with the poetry that had a social message and he did not understand its effect as a catharsis.

British Dictionary definitions for catharsis


noun plural -ses
  1. (in Aristotelian literary criticism) the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear, as in tragedy
  2. psychoanal the bringing of repressed ideas or experiences into consciousness, thus relieving tensionsSee also abreaction
  3. purgation, esp of the bowels

Word Origin for catharsis

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

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

catharsis in Medicine


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.

catharsis in Culture



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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.