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to seize or capture, especially after pursuit:
to catch a criminal; to catch a runaway horse.
to trap or ensnare:
to catch a fish.
to intercept and seize; take and hold (something thrown, falling, etc.):
to catch a ball; a barrel to catch rain.
to come upon suddenly; surprise or detect, as in some action:
I caught him stealing the pumpkin.
to receive, incur, or contract:
to catch a cold.
to be in time to get aboard (a train, boat, etc.).
to lay hold of; grasp; clasp:
He caught her arm.
to grip, hook, or entangle:
The closing door caught his arm.
to allow (something) to become gripped, hooked, snagged, or entangled:
He caught his coat on a nail.
to attract or arrest:
The painting caught his fancy. His speech caught our attention.
to check or restrain suddenly (often used reflexively):
She caught her breath in surprise. He caught himself before he said the wrong thing.
to see or attend:
to catch a show.
to strike; hit:
The blow caught him on the head.
to become inspired by or aware of:
I caught the spirit of the occasion.
to fasten with or as if with a catch:
to catch the clasp on a necklace.
to deceive:
No one was caught by his sugary words.
to attract the attention of; captivate; charm:
She was caught by his smile and good nature.
to grasp with the intellect; comprehend:
She failed to catch his meaning.
to hear clearly:
We caught snatches of their conversation.
to apprehend and record; capture:
The painting caught her expression perfectly.
South Midland and Southern U.S. to assist at the birth of:
The town doctor caught more than four hundred children before he retired.
to become gripped, hooked, or entangled:
Her foot caught in the net.
to overtake someone or something moving (usually followed by up, up with, or up to).
to take hold:
The door lock doesn’t catch.
Baseball. to play the position of catcher,
He catches for the Yankees.
to become lighted; take fire; ignite:
The kindling caught instantly.
to become established, as a crop or plant, after germination and sprouting.
the act of catching.
anything that catches, especially a device for checking motion, as a latch on a door.
any tricky or concealed drawback:
It seems so easy that there must be a catch somewhere.
a slight, momentary break or crack in the voice.
that which is caught, as a quantity of fish:
The fisherman brought home a large catch.
a person or thing worth getting, especially a person regarded as a desirable matrimonial prospect:
My mother thinks Pat would be quite a catch.
a game in which a ball is thrown from one person to another:
to play catch; to have a catch.
a fragment:
catches of a song.
Music. a round, especially one in which the words are so arranged as to produce ludicrous effects.
Sports. the catching and holding of a batted or thrown ball before it touches the ground.
Rowing. the first part of the stroke, consisting of the placing of the oar into the water.
Agriculture. the establishment of a crop from seed:
a catch of clover.
catchy (def 3).
catch at, to grasp at eagerly; accept readily:
He caught at the chance to get free tickets.
catch on,

to become popular:
That new song is beginning to catch on.
to grasp mentally; understand:
You’d think he’d catch on that he’s boring us.
New England. (in cooking) to scorch or burn slightly; sear:
A pot roast is better if allowed to catch on.

catch out, Chiefly British. to catch or discover (a person) in deceit or an error.
catch up,

to lift or snatch suddenly:
Leaves were caught up in the wind.
to bring or get up to date (often followed by on or with):
to catch up on one’s reading.
to come up to or overtake (something or someone) (usually followed by with):
to catch up with the leader in a race.
to become involved or entangled with:
caught up in the excitement of the crowd.
to point out to (a person) minor errors, untruths, etc. (usually followed by on):
We caught the teacher up on a number of factual details.
Falconry. to capture for further training (a hawk that has been flown at hack).
South Midland and Southern U.S. to harness (a horse or mule).

catch a crab, (in rowing) to bungle a stroke by failing to get the oar into the water at the beginning or by failing to withdraw it properly at the end.
catch a turn, Nautical. to wind a rope around a bitt, capstan, etc., for one full turn.
catch it, Informal. to receive a reprimand or punishment:
He’ll catch it from his mother for tearing his good trousers again.
Contemporary Examples

Ladies and gentlemen, can we log off Twitter for just a day so all the facts can catch up with the rumors?
Paris Fashion Week Frenzy: Let’s Focus on Clothes Robin Givhan March 8, 2011

I have spent the many years since trying, futilely, to catch up.
Inside the NYT Book Review: ‘How I Write’ Interviews Sam Tanenhaus Noah Charney August 7, 2012

Unfortunately, his plan to catch St. Nick is foiled when his “little rest” turns into a full-fledged sleep session.
Coca –Cola, M&M’s, & More Classic Holiday Commercials (VIDEO) Brittany Jones-Cooper December 21, 2011

He might be a catch; he does describe the fire as “pretty cool.”
Tiny Hamsters Eat Tiny Burritos, Emma Stone Lip Syncs, and More Viral Videos The Daily Beast Video May 2, 2014

That was written after I met Nelson Mandela and was doing a movie called To catch a Fire down [in South Africa].
Tim Robbins’ Mid-Life Crisis Album? Marlow Stern July 13, 2011

Historical Examples

Then a sigh, profound and long, and some faint words which he did not catch.
An Outcast of the Islands Joseph Conrad

The first thing I am going to do is to catch some fish, if you’ll lend me your boat.
Brave and Bold Horatio Alger

If the Dutch catch this hero of yours they will hang him as sure as I stand here.
Almayer’s Folly Joseph Conrad

But every evening, towards bedtime, she came into the garden to catch Mimi.
Life and Death of Harriett Frean May Sinclair

I confess I was too agitated to catch every word that was spoken.
Burlesques William Makepeace Thackeray

verb catches, catching, caught
(transitive) to take hold of so as to retain or restrain: he caught the ball
(transitive) to take, seize, or capture, esp after pursuit
(transitive) to ensnare or deceive, as by trickery
(transitive) to surprise or detect in an act: he caught the dog rifling the larder
(transitive) to reach with a blow: the stone caught him on the side of the head
(transitive) to overtake or reach in time to board: if we hurry we should catch the next bus
(transitive) to see or hear; attend: I didn’t catch the Ibsen play
(transitive) to be infected with: to catch a cold
to hook or entangle or become hooked or entangled: her dress caught on a nail
to fasten or be fastened with or as if with a latch or other device
(transitive) to attract or arrest: she tried to catch his eye
(transitive) to comprehend: I didn’t catch his meaning
(transitive) to hear accurately: I didn’t catch what you said
(transitive) to captivate or charm
(transitive) to perceive and reproduce accurately: the painter managed to catch his model’s beauty
(transitive) to hold back or restrain: he caught his breath in surprise
(intransitive) to become alight: the fire won’t catch
(transitive) (cricket) to dismiss (a batsman) by intercepting and holding a ball struck by him before it touches the ground
(intransitive) often foll by at

to grasp or attempt to grasp
to take advantage (of), esp eagerly: he caught at the chance

(intransitive; used passively) (informal) to make pregnant
(informal) catch it, to be scolded or reprimanded
(slang) catch oneself on, to realize that one’s actions are mistaken
the act of catching or grasping
a device that catches and fastens, such as a latch
anything that is caught, esp something worth catching
the amount or number caught
(informal) a person regarded as an eligible matrimonial prospect
a check or break in the voice
a break in a mechanism

a concealed, unexpected, or unforeseen drawback or handicap
(as modifier): a catch question

a game in which a ball is thrown from one player to another
(cricket) the catching of a ball struck by a batsman before it touches the ground, resulting in him being out
(music) a type of round popular in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, having a humorous text that is often indecent or bawdy and hard to articulate See round (sense 31), canon1 (sense 7)

c.1200, “to take, capture,” from Anglo-French or Old North French cachier “catch, capture” (animals) (Old French chacier “hunt, pursue, drive (animals),” Modern French chasser “to hunt;” making it a doublet of chase (v.)), from Vulgar Latin *captiare “try to seize, chase” (also source of Spanish cazar, Italian cacciare), from Latin captare “to take, hold,” frequentative of Latin capere “to take, hold” (see capable).

Senses in early Middle English also included “chase, hunt,” which later went with chase (v.). Of infections from 1540s; of fire from 1734; of sleep, etc., from early 14c. Related: Catched (obsolete); catching; caught.

Meaning “act as a catcher in baseball” recorded from 1865. To catch on “apprehend” is 1884, American English colloquial. To catch (someone’s) eye is first attested 1813, in Jane Austen. Catch as catch can first attested late 14c.

late 14c., “device to hold a latch of a door,” also “a trap;” also “a fishing vessel,” from catch (v.). Meaning “action of catching” attested from 1570s. Meaning “that which is caught or worth catching” (later especially of spouses) is from 1590s. Sense of “hidden cost, qualification, etc.” is slang first recorded 1855 in P.T. Barnum.


A highly desirable acquisition or engagement: Getting Von Karajan for our benefit would be a catch (1740s+)
A hidden cost, qualification, defect, etc; something to make one think twice: It looks like all gravy, but there’s a catch to it (1855+)


To see, hear, or attend a particular entertainment: I caught Mickey Rooney on TV (1906+)
catch on (1880s+)
To do desk duty, answering the telephone and receiving complaints: Thompson was catching in the squad room at Manhattan South (1950s+ Police)
To be penetrated in an anal sex act (1970s+ Homosexual)

Related Terms

shoestring catch

catch a Tartar
catch as catch can
catch at
catch cold
catch fire
catch in the act
catch it
catch napping
catch off guard
catch on
catch one’s breath
catch one’s death (of cold)
catch red-handed
catch sight of
catch some rays
catch some z’s
catch someone’s eye
catch the drift
catch up


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