ca·​thex·​is | \ kə-ˈthek-səs How to pronounce cathexis (audio) , ka- \
plural cathexes\ kə-​ˈthek-​ˌsēz How to pronounce cathexes (audio) , ka-​ \

Definition of cathexis

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Examples of cathexis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There’s a word for this loss of self in devotion: cathexis. Janey Starling,, "Why You Need To Stop Looking For Love," 10 Apr. 2020

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

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 entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cathexis

Time Traveler for cathexis

Time Traveler

The first known use of cathexis was in 1922

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about cathexis

Statistics for cathexis

Last Updated

25 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cathexis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cathexis


ca·​thex·​is | \ kə-ˈthek-səs, ka- How to pronounce cathexis (audio) \
plural cathexes\ -​ˌsēz How to pronounce cathexes (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on cathexis

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cathexis

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!