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

There is one potential catalyst for an industry crisis looming on the horizon: Chinese manufacturers could eventually work out how to sell cars overseas, just as their Japanese and South Korean peers have. Stephen Wilmot, WSJ, "Auto Consolidation Is Vital but Needs a Crisis," 15 June 2019 Outbreaks have also been a catalyst for congressional oversight, bringing U.S. Rep. Jason Crow to the facility unannounced in February. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "More mumps and chickenpox cases hit Aurora’s ICE facility," 14 June 2019 The trio continues to perform and record (with a new album due out in the fall), but Loueke has become an invaluable creative catalyst for many of jazz’s elite improvisers. Andrew Gilbert, The Mercury News, "Raul Midón, Lionel Loueke bring special bond to SF Bay Area shows," 14 June 2019 United States coach Gregg Berhalter will hope the Gold Cup can act as a catalyst for his faltering side when the expanded championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) kicks off on Saturday. Rob Woollard, chicagotribune.com, "USMNT take on the 2019 Gold Cup with an eye on 2022," 13 June 2019 Ben Kallo, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, thinks any update on deliveries or demand could be a positive catalyst. Dana Hull, Fortune, "5 Things To Watch For at Tesla’s Annual Shareholders Meeting," 11 June 2019 The Stonewall riots turned into a catalyst for the LGBT rights movement, which in many ways resembled the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement. Lizz Schumer, Redbook, "What is Pride Month? Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall," 10 June 2019 Experts say the widespread and worrisome teen vaping epidemic is a major catalyst—but so is support from e-cigarette and tobacco companies, which has some health groups feeling uneasy. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "A Flurry of States Have Raised Their Smoking Ages. But Big Tobacco's Involvement Has Some Health Groups Uneasy," 10 June 2019 Dark Phoenix is about an idealistic man experiencing a woman’s trauma as a catalyst to confront his own demons. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "Dark Phoenix Isn’t Quite As Bad As The Game of Thrones Finale, But It’s Close," 7 June 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

Statistics for catalyst

Last Updated

18 Jun 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 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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