ca·​thar·​tic | \ kə-ˈthär-tik How to pronounce cathartic (audio) \

Definition of cathartic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, or producing catharsis cathartic drugs a cathartic experience


ca·​thar·​tic | \ kə-ˈthär-tik How to pronounce cathartic (audio) \

Definition of cathartic (Entry 2 of 2)

: a medicine that causes the bowels to be purged (see purge entry 1 sense 2a) : purgative

Other Words from cathartic


cathartically \ kə-​ˈthär-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cathartic (audio) \ adverb

Word History of Catharsis and Cathartic


Catharsis and cathartic both trace to the Greek word kathairein, meaning “to cleanse, purge.” Catharsis entered English as a medical term having to do with purging the body—and especially the bowels—of unwanted material. The adjective cathartic entered English with a meaning descriptive of such a physically cleansing purge. It didn’t take long for people to start using these words figuratively in reference to emotional release and spiritual cleansing.

Examples of cathartic in a Sentence

Adjective There's something cathartic about a punch in the nose. — Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, 28 Jan. 2002 But Vietnam is hard to sell as a tidy, cathartic morality tale of troubled times overcome. — Jennifer Homans, New Republic, 2 & 9 Dec. 2002 Many veterans, at first reluctant to speak, ultimately uncorked their emotions in a cathartic explosion. — Stanley Karnow, New York Times Book Review, 22 Nov. 1992 It provokes no healthy tears, whereas Cervantes never fails … to open the cathartic floodgates. — Anthony Burgess, Homage to Qwert Yuiop: Selected Journalism 1978-1985, 1986
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Yet the overall impact of Cola is cathartic, even uplifting, despite how the tunes go into dark places emotionally. Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 6 Apr. 2022 Schumer hoped that shedding light on the condition in her TV series might be cathartic. Serena Coady, SELF, 28 Mar. 2022 So to be able to be with people who are writing about something that still resonates with me as a 37-year-old woman was cathartic. Adam B. Vary, Variety, 25 Mar. 2022 To be fair, folks who have survived/dealt with bad times have long found horror films to be cathartic and/or a source of pleasure amid the pain. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2022 So, there's that that little twinge of connection that can feel really cathartic. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, 18 June 2021 And the screams of a neighborhood, in a cathartic release of frustration and stress, cut through the night air. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2022 His tears when his impatience costs them a part of the harvest carry a real sting, and his exultant win in a wine-guzzling contest at the town festival gives him a moment of cathartic release, a victory in the face of defeat. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Feb. 2022 To know that listeners are resonating so strongly with such a cathartic experience must be nothing short of incredible for MGK. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 5 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Some people find free-writing in a journal cathartic. Molly Longman,, 11 Jan. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cathartic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cathartic


1612, in the meaning defined above


1651, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cathartic

Adjective and Noun

Late Latin or Greek; Late Latin catharticus, from Greek kathartikos, from kathairein — see catharsis

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Time Traveler for cathartic

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The first known use of cathartic was in 1612

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Last Updated

21 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cathartic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for cathartic


ca·​thar·​tic | \ kə-ˈthärt-ik How to pronounce cathartic (audio) \

Medical Definition of cathartic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, or producing catharsis



Medical Definition of cathartic (Entry 2 of 2)

: a cathartic medicine : purgative


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