noun \kə-ˈthär-səs\

: the act or process of releasing a strong emotion (such as pity or fear) especially by expressing it in an art form

plural ca·thar·ses \-ˌsēz\

Full Definition of CATHARSIS

:  purgation
a :  purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art
b :  a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
:  elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression

Examples of CATHARSIS

  1. Acting is a means of catharsis for her.
  2. Painting is a catharsis for me.
  3. She has learned to have her catharsis, take a deep breath and move on. … she does not dwell on the negative anymore. —Selena Roberts, New York Times, 24 June 2001


New Latin, from Greek katharsis, from kathairein to cleanse, purge, from katharos
First Known Use: circa 1775

Other Psychology Terms

fetish, hypochondria, intelligence, mania, narcissism, neurosis, pathological, psychosis, schadenfreude, subliminal


noun    (Medical Dictionary)
plural ca·thar·ses also ka·thar·ses \-ˌsēz\

Medical Definition of CATHARSIS

: elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression—compare abreaction

Variants of CATHARSIS

ca·thar·sis also ka·thar·sis \kə-ˈthär-səs\


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Purging or purification of emotions through art. The term is derived from the Greek katharsis (“purgation,” “cleansing”), a medical term used by Aristotle as a metaphor to describe the effects of dramatic tragedy on the spectator: by arousing vicarious pity and terror, tragedy directs the spectator's own anxieties outward and, through sympathetic identification with the tragic protagonist, purges them.


Next Word in the Dictionary: Cathartae
Previous Word in the Dictionary: catharine wheel
All Words Near: catharsis

Seen & Heard

What made you want to look up catharsis? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).