ca·​thex·​is | \kə-ˈthek-səs, ka-\
plural cathexes\ -​ˌsēz \

Definition of cathexis 

: investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea

Did You Know?

You might suspect that cathexis derives from a word for "emotion," but in actuality the key concept is "holding." "Cathexis" comes to us by way of New Latin (Latin as used after the medieval period in scientific description or classification) from the Greek word kathexis, meaning "holding." It can ultimately be traced back (through katechein, meaning "to hold fast, occupy") to the Greek verb echein, meaning "to have" or "to hold." "Cathexis" first appeared in print in 1922 in a book about Freud's psychological theories (which also established the plural as "cathexes," as is consistent with Latin), and it is still often used in scientific and specifically psychological contexts.

First Known Use of cathexis

1922, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cathexis

New Latin (intended as translation of German Besetzung), from Greek kathexis holding, from katechein to hold fast, occupy, from kata- + echein to have, hold — more at scheme

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cathexis

Listen to Our Podcast about cathexis

Statistics for cathexis

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cathexis

The first known use of cathexis was in 1922

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cathexis


ca·​thex·​is | \kə-ˈthek-səs, ka- \
plural cathexes\ -​ˌsēz \

Medical Definition of cathexis 

1 : investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea

2 : libidinal energy that is either invested or being invested

Comments on cathexis

What made you want to look up cathexis? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


full of whispering sounds

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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