catalyst

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

Essential Meaning of catalyst

1 technical : a substance that causes a chemical reaction to happen more quickly
2 : a person or event that quickly causes change or action The bombing attack was the catalyst for war. She was proud to be a catalyst for reform in the government.

Full 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.

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 In addition to the internet, mobile devices have also been a catalyst for change in the industry. Peter Buckman, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 That horrific act, and the determined battle by Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to punish those responsible, was a catalyst for the formation of the civil rights movement that gained national momentum in the 1960s. Los Angeles Times, 3 Jan. 2022 The reference then was that the Padres’ new home would be a catalyst for downtown redevelopment. San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Dec. 2021 The combination of 35 to 55 mph winds, with gusts of 75 mph, as well as low relative humidity and temperatures in the 70s and 80s were a catalyst for unseasonably dangerous circumstances. Travis Caldwell And Brandon Miller, CNN, 16 Dec. 2021 Her initial work and investment could be a catalyst for future residential redevelopment undertaken by the Africatown Redevelopment Corporation. al, 9 Dec. 2021 Mendoza hopes that Bella Body Spa and Beauty Lounge can be a catalyst for change in the lives of all the women who walk through the doors. Kimberly Wilson, Essence, 8 Nov. 2021 Books can be a catalyst for change, and well, so can bookstores. Jessica Poitevien, Travel + Leisure, 4 Nov. 2021 School-age children have been a catalyst for the spread of the virus in Michigan since schools reopened in August and September. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, 2 Nov. 2021

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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Time Traveler for catalyst

Time Traveler

The first known use of catalyst was in 1902

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Dictionary Entries Near catalyst

catalysis

catalyst

catalyte

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Statistics for catalyst

Last Updated

17 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Catalyst.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catalyst. Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for catalyst

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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