Definition of cataract in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkadəˌrakt/


1A large waterfall.
Example sentences
  • A cataract is also a waterfall - a glorious force that washes away so much you're glad to be rid of, perhaps with some cleansing tears as a finale.
  • The Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, built in 1899, stands at the site of the first cataract, or waterfall, of the Nile.
  • After a wet spell, the cataract is more spectacular, but the penalty is the state of the ground.
1.1A sudden rush of water; a downpour: the rain enveloped us in a deafening cataract
More example sentences
  • The current weather report is for, basically, the sky to collapse, typhoons, cataracts and hurricanes, spouting till they have drench'd our steeples, etc.
2A medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision: she had cataracts in both eyes
More example sentences
  • The most common causes of visual impairment in the elderly include presbyopia, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease included asthma and chronic bronchitis, and eye disease included cataracts and glaucoma.
  • This increased risk of falling may be the result of changes that come with aging plus other medical conditions, such as arthritis, cataracts, or hip surgery.


Late Middle English: from Latin cataracta 'waterfall, floodgate', also 'portcullis' (medical sense 2 probably being a figurative use of this), from Greek kataraktēs 'down-rushing', from katarassein, from kata- 'down' + arassein 'strike, smash'.

  • Latin cataracta (from Greek kataraktes, ‘rushing down’) meant both ‘waterfall or floodgate’ and ‘portcullis’. The first meaning led to the ‘large waterfall’ sense of the English word cataract, and the second is probably behind the medical sense describing the clouding of the lens of the eye. A person's vision is blocked by this condition as if a portcullis had been lowered over the eye. Other words in English containing kata ‘down’ include cataclysm (early 17th century) from kluzein ‘to wash’; catapult (late 16th century) from pallein ‘hurl’; and catastrophe (mid 16th century) from strophē ‘turning’.

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Syllabification: cat·a·ract

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