noun cat·a·chre·sis \ˌka-tə-ˈkrē-səs\

Definition of catachresis



play \-ˌsēz\
  1. 1 :  use of the wrong word for the context

  2. 2 :  use of a forced and especially paradoxical figure of speech (as blind mouths)


play \-ˈkres-tik\ or


play \-ti-kəl\ adjective


play \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

catachresis was our Word of the Day on 10/27/2011. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

As you might have guessed, catachresis is a word favored by grammarians. It can sometimes be used merely as a fancy label of disparagement for uses the grammarian finds unacceptable -as when Henry Fowler insisted in 1926 that "mutual" in "our mutual friend" was a catachresis. (Fowler preferred "common," but "mutual" does have an established sense which is correct in that context.) The first recorded use of "catachresis" dates to1553, and it has been used to describe (or decry) misuses of a word ever since. "Catachresis" comes to us by way of Latin from the Greek word katachrēsis, which means "misuse."

Origin and Etymology of catachresis

Latin, from Greek katachrēsis misuse, from katachrēsthai to use up, misuse, from kata- + chrēsthai to use

First Known Use: 1550

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capable of being understood in two ways

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