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

Started by Alice Chandler in 1962, her passion for raising horses was the catalyst for this magical farmland, where the world’s finest horses are born, and in some cases, trained. Carisha Swanson, House Beautiful, "5 Things You Must Do In Kentucky," 3 May 2019 Last week’s horrific, unprecedented, unexpected terrorist attack was obviously the catalyst for our reform, but reform wasn’t a given. Zac Fleming, Harper's BAZAAR, "New Zealand Banned Guns After Thoughts and Prayers. Why Can’t America?," 23 Mar. 2019 It was also rumored that the former wife of Damon Dash was the catalyst for Solange's famous elevator outburst on Jay-Z after the 2014 Met Gala. Fox News, "Gwyneth Paltrow denies Amber Rose’s theory that she’s ‘Becky,’ slept with Jay-Z," 2 Oct. 2018 Putin’s own aggression on the world stage has become an unexpected catalyst for an investment boom in Russian education. Bloomberg.com, "Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.," 12 Feb. 2018 The caption explained that a home tour post on Gabrielle's blog was actually the catalyst that shot Chip and Joanna Gaines to Fixer Upper fame. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Joanna Gaines Finally Met the Woman Who's Responsible for 'Fixer Upper'," 7 Apr. 2019 The index's winning streak, a 3.1% rise through Friday, has been largely without a central catalyst. Will Horner, WSJ, "S&P 500 Closes Higher for Seventh Straight Session," 5 Apr. 2019 Too much of a specific dispersant could affect catalyst performance and reduce fuel economy. Paul Weissler, Popular Mechanics, "How to Pick the Right Motor Oil for Your Car," 14 Feb. 2019 Of course, Eric Hosmer (2008) signed a lucrative free-agent deal with San Diego only after being a transformative force in the organization and a catalyst in two pennant-winning seasons. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "Three years after wondering, 'Is this for me?' Hunter Dozier gains traction with Royals," 30 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

21 May 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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