Definition of cathartic in English:



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

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

    • ‘The cathartic dose of sorbitol is 20 to 50 grams.’
    • ‘Participants 50 years and older with an indication for colonoscopy underwent cathartic preparation of the colon before CTC followed by regular colonoscopy.’
    • ‘This fungus is supposedly edible but faded forms can be confused with R. formosa, which has a strong cathartic effect when eaten.’
    • ‘Since sodium phosphate is an osmotic cathartic agent, there is the risk of intravascular volume reduction due to the production of a large effluent.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Mercury is used in the manufacture of skin medicine, dental amalgam, plastics, cathartics, paints, fungicides, cosmetics, and scientific instruments.’
    • ‘Gastric lavage, emetics, activated charcoal, cathartics, etc., should be used when indicated.’
    • ‘Other laxatives and cathartics are available.’


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