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.>
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of catalyst
First Known Use: 1902
CATALYST Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of catalyst for English Language Learners
: a substance that causes a chemical reaction to happen more quickly
: a person or event that quickly causes change or action
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
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up catalyst? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).