verb, transitive + intransitive
ca·​tas·​tro·​phize | \ kə-ˈta-strə-ˌfīz How to pronounce catastrophize (audio) \
variants: also British catastrophise
catastrophized; catastrophizing; catastrophizes

Definition of catastrophize

: to imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event : to think about a situation or event as being a catastrophe or having a potentially catastrophic outcome It's easy to have one bad night of sleep and catastrophize that you'll never sleep well again.— Katherine Sharkey, quoted in Allure, June 2012 Our minds are constantly in the past or the future—we'll ruminate on what's too late to change or catastrophize about what hasn't happened yet.— Diana Winston, quoted in O, The Oprah Magazine, 1 Feb. 2013 This meal needed to be special. Special and kosher. With this in mind, I began to catastrophize: What if I screwed the whole thing up? What if I unknowingly broke a rule of kashrut, effectively tainting the whole meal and ruining the start to the holiday season?— Gabi Moskowitz, City Paper, 3 Oct. 2012 Learning not to catastrophize and to think more helpful and truthful thoughts can bring down stress …— Mary Jean Porter, Pueblo (Colorado) Chieftain, 13 Nov. 2012

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

First Known Use of catastrophize

1962, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About catastrophize

Time Traveler for catastrophize

Time Traveler

The first known use of catastrophize was in 1962

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near catastrophize




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for catastrophize

Cite this Entry

“Catastrophize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!