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

Definition of cathexis

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

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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 Dependency and cathexis are also incredibly painful and difficult to extricate yourself from. Janey Starling,, "Why You Need To Stop Looking For Love," 10 Apr. 2020 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

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The first known use of cathexis was in 1922

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Cite this Entry

“Cathexis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for cathexis


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

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