Definition of catharsis in English:



  • 1The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

    • ‘The ending of the film also presents a twist that effectively erases the catharses that the film's events have caused several of the more prominent characters to undergo.’
    • ‘It's easy to write off Dumont's dark view as cynical, even delusional and childish, and it's even easier to laugh off the film's emotional catharses in order to create a safe distance.’
    • ‘The families are so caught up in an illogical belief in the emotional catharsis of execution that they remain in a state of suspended animation for years at a time.’
    • ‘Indeed, the author makes it clear that one of his reasons for writing the book is to assist in the grieving process - in other words, a form of catharsis.’
    • ‘Once, she had simply blurted out her feelings, yet there had been no catharsis, no flood of relief, only an empty realisation that she had made her mother cry.’
    • ‘They always seem to focus on surprise and juxtaposition, or tension relief, or catharsis, or something.’
    • ‘For instance, Brecht challenged the worth of stories that merely entertain, amuse or at best, provide emotional involvement and release through catharsis.’
    • ‘Experiencing a tale from their local past can help people ‘fall in love with the theatre,’ he says, and can even give them a sense of catharsis and closure.’
    • ‘Of course, a sense of catharsis is central to a book of this nature.’
    • ‘Most people need drama, excitement, pathos, catharsis - on some level their emotions have to connect with their minds in order to understand.’
    • ‘At the end of the movie, an ensemble comedy, there are about half a dozen catharses in a two-minute span of time.’
    • ‘There is catharsis, release, and a dispersion of pent-up emotions and feelings.’
    • ‘There is a strong element of theatre, of catharsis and self-purification, to the ritual of statue-smashing.’
    • ‘When did you last get that chariot ride of emotion and catharsis that Aristotle thought was so good for us all?’
    • ‘For the fans, this dance provides catharsis and releases pent-up energy.’
    • ‘The purpose of tragedy is catharsis, a powerful emotional experience in which the audience purges the emotions of pity and fear.’
    • ‘And I think there will be a sense of catharsis and relief on the part of the majority of the Peruvian population.’
    • ‘But, we are filled with a sense of emotional catharsis when we see it because it tells the truth in a much more real way than any news story or blog post has ever done.’
    • ‘We're left confused, appalled, and with no clear idea about anyone's guilt and no place to put our mixed emotions, no catharsis at all.’
    • ‘They seem to be waiting for something, perhaps catharsis or relief, but it's not coming anytime soon.’
    purging, purgation, purification, cleansing, release, relief, emotional release, freeing, deliverance, exorcism, ridding
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  • 2Medicine
    rare Purgation.

    • ‘These acidify the proximal colon and result in a dose dependent catharsis.’
    • ‘I wonder if he knows that catharsis can mean a cleansing or purging of the bowels.’


Early 19th century (in catharsis (sense 2)): from Greek katharsis, from kathairein ‘cleanse’, from katharos ‘pure’. The notion of ‘release’ through drama ( catharsis (sense 1)) derives from Aristotle's Poetics.