ca·​tab·​o·​lism | \kə-ˈta-bə-ˌli-zəm \

Definition of catabolism 

: degradative metabolism involving the release of energy and resulting in the breakdown of complex materials (such as proteins or lipids) within the organism — compare anabolism

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Other Words from catabolism

catabolic \ ˌka-​tə-​ˈbä-​lik \ adjective
catabolically \ -​li-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Examples of catabolism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Regardless of an organism’s energy source, its metabolism is a balance of catabolism, breaking energy down into usable units, and anabolism, using those units for vital building projects such as bone growth. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Metabolism," 6 Feb. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'catabolism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of catabolism

1876, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for catabolism

earlier katabolism, from kata- cata- + (meta)bolism

Note: The term was promulgated, if not initiated, by the British physiologist Walter Holbrook Gaskell (1847-1914) in the article "On the structure, distribution and function of the nerves which innervate the visceral and vascular systems," Journal of Physiology, vol. 7, issue 1 (January, 1886), p. 46: "When a tissue such as a muscle is said to be at rest we know that in reality a continual interchange of material or metabolism is all the time taking place, the condition of equilibrium which we denote by the term rest being brought about by the counterbalancing of the two opposite processes of constructive and destructive metabolism, or as Hering has called them of assimilation and dissimilation. In other words metabolism includes the two opposite processes of destruction and construction, or as they may be called of katabolism and anabolism…We can therefore with justice speak of the motor nerve of a muscle as the katabolic nerve of that tissue…."

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Time Traveler for catabolism

The first known use of catabolism was in 1876

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More Definitions for catabolism


variants: also katabolism \ kə-​ˈtab-​ə-​ˌliz-​əm \

Medical Definition of catabolism 

: destructive metabolism involving the release of energy and resulting in the breakdown of complex materials within the organism — compare anabolism

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