catalyst

noun
cat·​a·​lyst | \ ˈka-tə-ləst \

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

The process of conquering my running dream was absolutely the catalyst that changed my life and became the gateway to my dreaming big as a larger woman and athlete. SELF, "6 Tips for Pushing Fear Aside So You Can Finally Reach Your Fitness Goals," 31 Oct. 2018 First developed with the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) in Washington State and the US Department of Energy, ATJ-SPK has a unique catalyst that removes oxygen from ethanol. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Virgin 747 Completes Transatlantic Flight With Fuel Made Partly From Industrial Waste," 5 Oct. 2018 The government, in particular, could serve as a catalyst and coordinator-in-chief by taking a page from former Vice President Joe Biden and calling for a moonshot for sepsis. Derek Angus, STAT, "Current efforts to fight sepsis aren’t working. We need a bolder approach," 14 June 2018 In 1944, the threatened destruction of The Witch House became the catalyst that launched a new wave of restoration in Salem. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "You Can Now Live In A Replica Of The Salem Witch House," 31 Oct. 2018 Stock trading was volatile: The Dow swung more than 900 points between its high and low, only to pare hundreds of points of losses in the last 15 minutes of the trading day with no obvious catalyst. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Investors Flee Tech Stocks, Dragging Down U.S. Indexes," 29 Oct. 2018 Rather than desensitize soldiers to bad experiences, Boulder Crest helps them grow from their trauma—showing them how their worst experiences can become a catalyst for turning their lives around. Jim Rendon, Marie Claire, "When Female Veterans Return Home," 29 Oct. 2018 The incident became a catalyst for the civil rights movement. Jameelah Nasheed, Teen Vogue, "Someone Shot the Sign Marking the Spot Emmett Till's Body Was Found — Again," 6 Aug. 2018 In the long-term, the city hopes the Bayfront hotel and convention center becomes a catalyst for more development in Chula Vista’s bayfront. Gustavo Solis, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Chula Vista celebrates growth in State of City address," 9 May 2018

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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Statistics for catalyst

Last Updated

12 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for catalyst

The first known use of catalyst was in 1902

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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

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 \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on catalyst

Spanish Central: Translation of catalyst

Nglish: Translation of catalyst for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of catalyst for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about catalyst

Comments on catalyst

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