catalyst

noun
cat·​a·​lyst | \ ˈka-tə-ləst How to pronounce catalyst (audio) \

Definition of catalyst

1 : a substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible
2 : an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action That waterway became the catalyst of the area's industrialization. He was the catalyst in the native uprising.

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Word History of Catalyst

Catalyst is a fairly recent addition to the English language, first appearing at the start of the 20th century with its chemistry meaning. It was formed from the word catalysis, another chemistry term which refers to a modification and especially an increase in the rate of a chemical reaction induced by material unchanged chemically at the end of the reaction. By the 1940s, the figurative sense of catalyst was in use for someone or something that quickly causes change or action.

Examples of catalyst in a Sentence

The bombing attack was the catalyst for war. She was proud to be a catalyst for reform in the government.
Recent Examples on the Web Using the holiday as a catalyst for family memories can be a beautiful thing. Bryan Washington, The New Yorker, "Friendsgiving Will Set You Free," 26 Nov. 2019 Dead reckoning Both in life and death, celebrities wield significant power as a catalyst for cultural meaning. Ruth Penfold-mounce, Quartz, "Men still earn more than women—even after they’re dead," 20 Nov. 2019 The most potent form of phosphorus, unblended with soils, acts as a catalyst for blooms each year. Tony Briscoe, chicagotribune.com, "How algae blooms and dead zones form in Lake Erie," 14 Nov. 2019 Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s monster performance served as the catalyst for a huge game from the defense during their win against the San Francisco 49ers Monday night. oregonlive, "Jadeveon Clowney’s ‘breakout’ game leads the Seattle Seahawks’ defense in win over the San Francisco 49ers," 12 Nov. 2019 The city envisions it as the catalyst for a wider downtown resurgence. Don Stacom, courant.com, "Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu’s pitch to voters: Bristol is going in the right direction," 29 Oct. 2019 Carter’s death is regarded as a catalyst for change in Birmingham. al, "'We are all part of her legacy’: Bonita Carter honored with new memorial sign in Birmingham," 24 Oct. 2019 The sodium in them also seems to act as a catalyst in the way that iron does. The Economist, "Nanotube forests that are darker than night," 5 Oct. 2019 And hybridization — long considered an evolutionary dead end — instead acts as a catalyst for combining old gene variants in new ways, fueling rapid diversification. Quanta Magazine, "New Hybrid Species Remix Old Genes Creatively," 10 Sep. 2019

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

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First Known Use of catalyst

1902, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for catalyst

see catalysis

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Learn More about catalyst

Time Traveler for catalyst

Time Traveler

The first known use of catalyst was in 1902

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Statistics for catalyst

Last Updated

3 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Catalyst.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catalyst. Accessed 11 December 2019.

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More Definitions for catalyst

catalyst

noun

Financial Definition of catalyst

What It Is

A catalyst is news or information that changes a pricing trend in a security.

How It Works

Let's assume that Company XYZ announces earnings that far exceed analysts' expectations. This information could serve as a catalyst that kick-starts trading in the stock and changes its perception from a "dog" to a "star" among investors.

Catalysts can drive an investment up or down. A favorable event can push a stock to new heights, but if events turn sour, the exit for these shares can be very narrow and very crowded.

Let's take the example of a classic investment catalyst: adverse press publicity. A fundamentally strong company can get unfairly beaten up by the press and by analysts, driving down its stock price to unjustified lows. In this case, the catalyst would signal a great opportunity for investors to buy, not sell.

Why It Matters

Catalysts can change the perception of a security. They can be almost anything: earnings releases, favorable or unfavorable economic reports, management changes, new products, product recalls, successful (or unsuccessful) marketing campaigns, lawsuits, etc.

Quite often, catalysts are the news or events that finally call attention to fundamentals or other intrinsic factors that have existed for some time in a security. When investors can identify what events or information will be catalysts for a particular security, they essentially are able to predict which way the security will go if and when the information becomes public knowledge.

However, catalysts must be considered within the context of investment strategy. Investors buy when they anticipate the market will rise; they sell when they anticipate the market will fall. Catalysts are only one factor in the equation.

Source: Investing Answers

catalyst

noun
How to pronounce catalyst (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of catalyst

technical : a substance that causes a chemical reaction to happen more quickly
: a person or event that quickly causes change or action

catalyst

noun
cat·​a·​lyst | \ ˈkat-ᵊl-əst How to pronounce catalyst (audio) \

Medical Definition of catalyst

: a substance (as an enzyme) that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible

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Comments on catalyst

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