Definition of cathartic in English:



  • 1Providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions; causing catharsis.

    ‘crying is a cathartic release’
    • ‘Would we then defer to his expressed wishes and enact a scene of cathartic cruelty?’
    • ‘But beyond the monetary considerations, her renaming ordeal has also proved emotionally cathartic.’
    • ‘Forgiveness is cathartic and releases tension, revenge perpetuates and increases tension.’
    • ‘All people, including Chinese people, crave the cathartic release that laughter provides.’
    • ‘Perhaps this is why the film is best seen in a crowded theatre, where the infectiousness of cathartic emotion can have full play.’
    • ‘As an expression of community solidarity, and as a cathartic public moment of defiance in the face of the threat of personal loss, it is a powerful symbol.’
    • ‘This would have a cathartic effect; it would release us from the torments of hypocrisy, from the discomforts of a lie.’
    • ‘For many, the experience is clearly cathartic and helps release pent-up emotions.’
    • ‘Gullible by nature, they are easily swayed by catchy slogans and start seeking cathartic relief in communal frenzy.’
    • ‘Furthermore, a substantial body of social research reports that engaging in cathartic expressions of anger does not eradicate aggressive urges but rather escalates them.’
    • ‘Sometimes it's cathartic to open up about the sad stuff.’
    • ‘I also think there is real value, cathartic release, in applying to humour to the situation and being able to openly laugh at what we once feared’
    • ‘It's a defiantly anti-commercial album; one built more for cathartic expression than fretting over the amount of units sold.’
    • ‘As with Greek drama, it may be emotionally cathartic but it is never soothing.’
    • ‘However, don't expect a cathartic payoff, because there is little emotional messiness in this largely intellectual exercise.’
    • ‘It's been a cathartic experience for all of us.’
    • ‘It was a great, great, great show, a very cathartic release.’
    • ‘The play is supposed to build to a final cathartic spilling of secrets and emotions.’
    • ‘Today, audiences prefer big statements, cathartic effects and emotional exhibitionism.’
    • ‘We were witnessing the cathartic expression of raw experience that could be the foundation of a profoundly moving work and perhaps one day it will.’
    purgative, purging, purifying, cleansing, cleaning, releasing, relieving, freeing, delivering, exorcising, ridding
    depurative, lustral
    View synonyms
  • 2Medicine

    • ‘Since sodium phosphate is an osmotic cathartic agent, there is the risk of intravascular volume reduction due to the production of a large effluent.’
    • ‘Participants 50 years and older with an indication for colonoscopy underwent cathartic preparation of the colon before CTC followed by regular colonoscopy.’
    • ‘The cathartic dose of sorbitol is 20 to 50 grams.’
    • ‘This fungus is supposedly edible but faded forms can be confused with R. formosa, which has a strong cathartic effect when eaten.’
    • ‘The third type of intervention is administration of cathartic agents to increase gastrointestinal motility and hasten the expulsion of the toxin.’


  • A purgative drug.

    • ‘There is no evidence that cathartics reduce absorption or toxicity, however.’
    • ‘Gastric lavage, emetics, activated charcoal, cathartics, etc., should be used when indicated.’
    • ‘Mercury is used in the manufacture of skin medicine, dental amalgam, plastics, cathartics, paints, fungicides, cosmetics, and scientific instruments.’
    • ‘Gastrointestinal decontamination with activated charcoal and a cathartic may be useful in acute exposures if the drug was taken orally within the previous 60 minutes.’
    • ‘Other laxatives and cathartics are available.’


Early 17th century (in medical use): via late Latin from Greek kathartikos, from katharsis ‘cleansing’ (see catharsis).