There are 2 main definitions of catch in English:

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catch 1

Pronunciation: /katʃ/

verb (past and past participle caught /kɔːt/)

[with object]
1Intercept and hold (something which has been thrown, propelled, or dropped): she threw the bottle into the air and caught it again
More example sentences
  • He tossed both knives into the air and caught them before dropping into a crouch like his brother.
  • Every time there's even a semblance of running water, we put something under the faucet to catch the precious drops.
  • There were always pots across one wall of her sitting room to catch the drops.
1.1Intercept the fall of (someone): he fell forwards and Linda caught him
More example sentences
  • As she pitched forward, about to fall, someone caught her by her upper arms.
  • How many times do you have to fall before someone catches you and stays around?
  • He rushed forward towards the princess and caught her as she fell from her horse.
1.2Seize or take hold of: he caught hold of her arm as she tried to push past him
More example sentences
  • She caught hold of the boy's collar and dragged him, pushing him into his bed.
  • Jack caught hold of her arm and pulled her back to stand in front of him.
  • I thought my worst fears had come true when someone just caught hold of my hand.
1.3 [no object] (catch at) Grasp or try to grasp: his hands caught at her arms as she tried to turn away
More example sentences
  • Abby caught at his arm, and he started to push her away, then stopped himself.
  • As he made to move off in search of new bandages, she weakly caught at his arm.
  • Automatically, his own hands rose to catch at his master's arm.
1.4 Cricket Dismiss (a batsman) by catching the ball before it touches the ground: I was caught on the square-leg boundary for 96
More example sentences
  • Four of their batsmen were caught from blazing shots by fielders stationed on the boundary rope.
  • He lands them at around three quarters length, and then pitches the odd one up, seaming it away, and catching the batsmen, rooted to the crease, napping.
  • Australia bowler Brett Lee dives to catch England batsman Andrew Strauss for 37.
2Capture (a person or animal that tries or would try to escape): we hadn’t caught a single rabbit
More example sentences
  • The Welsh terrier is a rough-coated animal with droopy ears, originally bred in Wales to catch rats, mice and other vermin.
  • It always seemed to me that it was pretty rare for the hunt actually to catch a fox.
  • Traps of this kind, which are designed to catch foxes and rabbits, have been outlawed since 1954 when the Pest Act came into force.
capture, seize;
apprehend, take, arrest, lay hold of, take prisoner, take captive, take into custody, haul in;
trap, snare, ensnare;
informal nab, collar, run in, pinch, bust, pull in, do, feel someone's collar
British informal nick
2.1Succeed in reaching a person who is ahead of one.
Example sentences
  • He says the people of Poland must work hard because they have a struggle ahead to catch the other countries of the West.
  • You don't want them looking at the table and thinking: Chelsea are too far ahead for us to catch them.
  • However, once he got to third, Harvey and Templeman were just too far ahead for Westbrook to catch them.
2.2 (be caught in) Unexpectedly find oneself in (an unwelcome situation): my sister was caught in a thunderstorm
More example sentences
  • Speaking yesterday, Mr Ferguson said the law needed to be changed before anyone else was caught in the same situation.
  • But there was always the danger that he would be caught in situations he could not easily explain.
  • Would taxpayers have relief when faced with the situation of being caught in circumstances beyond their control?
2.3Surprise (someone) in an incriminating situation or in the act of doing something wrong: he was caught with bomb-making equipment in his home
More example sentences
  • To their surprise they caught him with a soldier on Hampstead Heath.
  • Do not be taken by surprise if you are caught for speeding or riding without helmets this week.
  • Funnily enough, I was almost caught in a compromising situation earlier by one of the engineers.
2.4Come upon (someone) unexpectedly: unexpected snow caught us by surprise
More example sentences
  • The unexpected attack caught him off guard and he landed on the porch with a thud.
  • The bike was powerful - far more so than he had expected - and the unexpected force caught him off guard.
  • Timms' move was so sudden, so unexpected, that it caught the woman completely by surprise.
3 [no object, with adverbial of place] (Of an object) accidentally become entangled or trapped in something: a button caught in her hair
More example sentences
  • The hem of her pants caught under her shoes and she toppled toward, taking the boy with her.
  • Then the toe of your shoe catches in a crack in the sidewalk and you stumble forward, but quickly regain your balance, trying to keep you dignity intact.
  • ‘I'm sorry,’ she said, coming so hastily to her feet her heel caught in her skirt and she lurched forward.
3.1 [with object and adverbial of place] Have (a part of one’s body or clothing) become entangled or trapped in something: she caught her foot in the bedspread figurative companies face increased risks of being caught in a downward spiral
More example sentences
  • She chased him through the security gates and nearly caught her flowing skirt in the elevator.
  • I once caught a scarf in a lift door as it closed and only just managed to heave it free and save myself from a gruesome end.
  • Boys, nay men, need to remember to wipe the toothpaste from the corners of their mouth, the crumbs from their beards and not to catch their shirts in their flies.
become trapped, become stuck, stick, become wedged, become entangled, become snarled up, become snagged, snag
3.2 [with object and adverbial of place] Fix or fasten in place: her hair was caught up in a chignon
More example sentences
  • I raise my hand to smooth my hair back, catch some of it over my ear, but when I carry my hand near my hair it crackles and dances away in the dry wind.
  • Her hair was caught back in a great net of silver, also dotted with diamonds.
4Reach in time and board (a train, bus, or aircraft): they caught the 12.15 from Oxford
More example sentences
  • It is not as if you can catch a bus or train, or hail a cab to go anywhere.
  • I alighted from the train at Huddersfield and caught a bus to New Mill.
  • Then I had to catch a bus, then a train, and walk quite a way to the house.
be in time for, reach in time, make, get to;
board, get on, enter, go on board, go aboard, step aboard, mount, ascend, embark
informal hop on, jump on
formal embus, entrain, emplane
4.1Reach or be in a place in time to see (a person, performance, programme, etc.): she was hurrying downstairs to catch the news
More example sentences
  • I don't usually watch a lot of local TV but happened to catch a programme last night about a farm with a herd of buffaloes.
  • I've just caught the end of a brief TV programme about Sonia Lo, co-founder of A Recipe for Peace.
  • I had caught the tail end of his performance - enough to give me but a small idea of the man.
4.2North American informal Attend or watch (a performance): we’ll get some burgers and catch a movie
More example sentences
  • We all decided to head down to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to catch a screening of the movie Homepage.
  • The center is also used for just getting off the streets or catching an afternoon movie on the big screen t.v. with surround sound.
  • Maybe catching a movie will help iron out stress between friends.
5Engage (a person’s interest or imagination): it was the business scheme that had caught his imagination
More example sentences
  • The scheme has already caught the imagination and interest of local school children.
  • I hope this scheme will catch the imagination of the public and we shall be exploring the opportunities for investment from the private sector.
  • The next venture was a jumble-sale which caught the imagination of so many and began the fund-raising in earnest.
engage, capture, attract, draw, gain, grab, arrest, seize, hold, win, absorb, engross, rivet, grip, captivate, bewitch
5.1Perceive fleetingly: she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror
More example sentences
  • He even caught a glimpse of some movement out of the corner of his eye.
  • I caught a glimpse of a clock and it read about two ten in the morning.
  • I still recall one Sunday morning when I caught a glimpse of them outside.
perceive, notice, observe, discern, detect, note, become aware of, make out, spot, see
British informal clock
5.2Hear or understand (something said), especially with effort: he bellowed something Jess couldn’t catch
More example sentences
  • ‘Be quiet, everyone,’ he said as he caught the drift of what was coming out of the juke box.
  • Our hyper friendly waiter must have caught the drift of our chatter about geese and pigs, and soon joined in.
  • But it was an effort for him to talk, his voice so low that I could not always catch what he said, and sometimes he would collapse back on to the bed trying to hide his exasperation.
hear, perceive, recognize, discern, make out;
follow, keep up with
informal get, get the drift of, get the hang of, catch on to, latch on to, make head or tail of, figure out, get the picture, get the message
British informal twig, suss out, suss
5.3Succeed in evoking or representing: the programme caught something of the flavour of Minoan culture
More example sentences
  • He explores the space, catches its relationship and represents it in various forms.
  • It really catches the feel of Dave's work.
  • His mastery was in describing exciting events and in catching the flavor of the moment.
evoke, conjure up, suggest, summon up, call to mind, recall, express, reproduce, represent, show, encapsulate, capture, record;
film, photograph, draw, paint
6 [with object and adverbial of place] Strike (someone) on a part of the body: Ben caught him on the chin with an uppercut
More example sentences
  • The perspex side caught me a nasty blow (as they say) on the forehead and the forearm.
  • The blow that caught me around the ears knocked me to the floor.
  • The informant's blow caught him full force in the chest causing him to curse into the gag.
hit, strike, slap, smack, crack, bang, connect with, contact
6.1Accidentally strike (a part of one’s body) against something: she fell and caught her head on the corner of the hearth
More example sentences
  • As he fell he caught his head on the edge of the bay dock leveller.
  • I pictured a back-handed blow, a woman slumping, catching her head on a hard surface.
  • I caught my leg on the corner of a little metal bench and I really started to bleed.
7Contract (an illness) through infection or contagion: he served in Macedonia, where he caught malaria
More example sentences
  • It damages unborn babies, and may cause miscarriage if the mother catches the disease while pregnant.
  • A child with TB may have to stay in the hospital so others do not catch the infection.
  • At this time it is not clear if the female nurse caught the disease from the patient, or through other sources.
become infected with, contract, get, take, become ill/sick with, fall ill/sick with, be taken ill with, show symptoms of, succumb to, develop, go/come down with, sicken for, fall victim to, be struck down with, be stricken with;
British  go down with
informal take ill with
North American informal take sick with
8 [no object] Become ignited and start burning: the rafters have caught
More example sentences
  • The flame catches and burns the empty paper to an ash.
  • The house caught and burned completely to the ground.
  • The wood caught, but it burned feebly.
ignite, become ignited, burn, start burning, flame, catch/take fire, burst into flames, flame up, kindle
8.1(Of an engine) fire and start running: the generator caught immediately
More example sentences
  • With a sudden jolt, the primary engines caught and the ship sped skywards on a comet of light.
  • He turned the car on, waiting for the engine to catch for a minute.
  • The first two Toyota pickups we got into wouldn't start, even with eight men rocking them to get the engine to catch.
start, start running, fire, begin working, go, function, operate


1An act of catching something, typically a ball.
Example sentences
  • I saw myself fumbling easy catches and looking clumsy.
  • In the 37th minute, the scoring lapse was broken in some style as Conor Phelan made a magnificent catch before sending the ball between the posts.
  • The last thing you want to do is lose the ball after a good catch.
1.1 Cricket A chance or act of catching the ball to dismiss a batsman: he took a brilliant catch at deep square leg
More example sentences
  • New Zealand's fielding was also awful with several misfields and dropped catches.
  • It was also an innings of great catches and easy misses.
  • Countless runs were gifted away through shoddy fielding and innumerable dropped catches.
1.2An amount of fish caught: the UK’s North Sea haddock catch
More example sentences
  • The beaches of East Anglia maybe can't produce the numbers of cod they once did, but there are still good catches taken and big fish caught.
  • At home catches of white fish have been poor over the last couple of weeks.
  • Some stretches are very well stocked and if you're on fish, multiple catches are common.
haul, net, bag, take, yield, booty, prize
2 [mass noun] A game in which a ball is thrown back and forth between two or more players.
Example sentences
  • I found the final rather involving, which given that rugby is in essence a game of catch taken extremely seriously is not bad going at all.
  • The frenetic action and strategic nuances of this seven-a-side sport also make it feel a long way from a casual game of catch.
  • Every now and then we'd pull ourselves from our lazy places in the sand to start up a game of catch with a foam football out in the waves.
3A device for securing something such as a door, window, or box: the window catch was rusty
More example sentences
  • At present ventilation windows on carriages are secured by two catches spaced about a metre apart.
  • An inquest held at Flax Bourton Coroner's Court in Bristol heard part of the window catch was broken, meaning it could be pushed open at any time.
  • The catch snapped and the window released slightly.
4A hidden problem or disadvantage in an apparently ideal situation: there’s a catch in it somewhere
More example sentences
  • The hidden catch here is that in this case, this rule was violated.
  • At The Bull Hotel on Tuesday, the programme makers reassured residents there were no hidden catches.
  • The girl looked up at her, too satisfied to care if there were any kind of hidden catches.
5 [in singular] informal A person considered desirable as a partner or spouse: Giles is a good catch for any girl
More example sentences
  • It is, in part, this ease that makes you a catch for potential partners.
  • The Shopkeeper was aware that Carl would be considered a good catch for any girl in town.
  • If you focus on lifestyle issues, in other words, what you wear, where you live, how much of a catch your partner is, etc, you will turn the control of how you are judged over to other people.
eligible man/woman, marriage prospect, match, suitable husband/wife/spouse
6 [in singular] An unevenness in a person’s voice caused by emotion: there was a catch in Anne’s voice
More example sentences
  • ‘You can wake me up now,’ she said with a slight catch in her voice.
  • Sherringham sounded only slightly winded, though there was a catch to his voice.
  • Sinjun didn't fail to notice the slight catch in her voice.
7 Music A round, typically one with words arranged to produce a humorous effect.
Example sentences
  • The catch, a particular form of round based on word-play, was especially popular in Restoration England.
  • The catch was one of the most popular forms of song from the mid-Sixteenth through the late-nineteenth centuries.
  • The best catches combine magnificent musical composition with intricate and inventive poetry.



catch (a) cold

see cold.

catch one's death (of cold)

see death.

catch someone's eye

1Be noticed by someone: a vase on a side table caught his eye
More example sentences
  • It was the notice about the Italian Cookery School that caught my eye.
  • Hop on and off all day long, stopping to see the attractions that catch your eye.
  • In addition to his general argument I'd draw attention to two other stories that caught my eye.
2Attract someone’s attention by making eye contact with them: he caught Eva’s eye and beckoned
More example sentences
  • Floyd caught my eye for a moment and winked before turning his attention back to Katie.
  • My friend and I had a very attentive waiter who replenished our drinks as soon as we caught his eye.
  • I caught Milton 's eye again, and he was grinning ear to ear.

catch fire

see fire.

catch it (North American catch hell)

British informal Be punished or told off: I’ll catch it if he finds me here
More example sentences
  • It's because somewhere, they broke a rule they didn't know about and caught hell for it.
  • Everything I did in life that was worthwhile I caught hell for.
  • Dave already has caught hell, and lots of it.
be reprimanded, be scolded, be rebuked, be taken to task, be admonished, be chastised, be castigated, get into trouble, be hauled over the coals
informal be told off, be for it, be for the high jump, get into hot/deep water, get into shtook, get a dressing-down, get an earful, get a roasting, get a rocket, get a rollicking, get a rap over the knuckles, get a slap on the wrist

catch the light

Shine or glint in the light: small gold hoop earrings caught the light as she turned her head
More example sentences
  • Her spectacles caught the light from somewhere and glimmered under the straight blonde of her hair.
  • When she turned away, her earrings caught the light.
  • Try a healthy dose of illumination for your eyes with discreet, shimmery pigments that catch the light and radiate a heart-stopping, soft glow.

catch sight of

see sight.
Example sentences
  • On the second floor, walking passed a group of unruly grade eights, I caught sight of soft blonde hair.
  • For the first time in ages I caught sight of The Independent.
  • She threw some cereal in her mouth then caught sight of the seriousness of the moment.

catch the sun

1Be in a sunny position: a glassed-in porch that caught the sun
More example sentences
  • I shamelessly adapted the idea for an inner-city roof garden that never caught the sun by painting the concrete floor slabs with black and white stone paint.
  • The Irish Sea has never been balmy, but the sheltered bay in Port Erin caught the sun and meant many happy summers spent frisking in the sand.
  • Facing south and catching the sun, the large rear garden is secluded by conifers.
2British Become tanned or sunburned.
Example sentences
  • My face has turned the colour of a boiled lobster - the polite phrase that grandmothers use is ‘My oh my, you have caught the sun, haven't you?’
  • But on the bright side, I really caught the sun yesterday, so at least I don't look quite as horrible as I feel.
  • I think that's perhaps when I caught the sun - and on the walk back home when it was on our backs and necks.

you wouldn't catch —— doing something

informal Used to indicate that there is no possibility of the person mentioned doing what is specified: you wouldn’t catch me walking back to the house alone at night
More example sentences
  • While you wouldn't catch me, or I'd imagine, most sane people, driving a vehicle out onto a frozen lake, it's fun to watch the people ice fishing, being pulled on skis or just taking a leisurely stroll.
  • I wonder if the people look down on us queuing up and laugh, thinking you wouldn't catch me in a car.
  • Well, you wouldn't catch me behind the stick of one of those things.

Phrasal verbs


catch on

1(Of a practice or fashion) become popular: the idea of linking pay to performance has caught on
More example sentences
  • If the practice catches on, however, I would like to see it broadened to include more misunderstood groups.
  • Australia's geographic isolation plays a big part in why the practice has caught on.
  • It was not until 1900 that soccer became popular in France, catching on in the industrial towns of northern France, but the average gate rarely rose above a thousand.
become popular, take off, become fashionable, come into fashion/vogue, boom, flourish, thrive
informal become trendy, become all the rage
2Understand what is meant or how to do something: I caught on to what it was the guy was saying
More example sentences
  • Yet his principles did not let him stay in Berlin once the censors caught on to his tricks.
  • Maybe this is a case where Hollywood has actually caught on to the value of free content.
  • He bent his head down and began kissing my neck and I finally caught on to what he was about to do.
understand, comprehend, learn, realize;
find out, see the light, see daylight, work out what's going on, get the point
British informal twig
2.1 (catch yourself on) Irish Become aware of something: catch yourself on, Michael, people don’t get arrested for no reason
More example sentences
  • When you're older you catch yourself on, you just aren't so bothered about fighting.
  • Catch yourself on, you're going to either end up dead or in jail.
  • Catch yourself on, will you, Kathleen?

catch someone out

1Detect that someone has done something wrong or made a mistake: his tone suggested he’d caught her out in some misdemeanour
More example sentences
  • A couple of weeks ago in the US, the singer was caught out miming to the wrong song.
  • The Government was caught out and exposed, but time and time again we are seeing this Government exercising duplicity in the messages it delivers to New Zealanders.
  • When Georgia let it slip about that book they're publishing we saw a chance to catch him out and I volunteered to go undercover.
1.1Put someone in a difficult situation for which they are unprepared: you might get caught out by the weather
More example sentences
  • That might not strike you as too difficult, but the final part will surely catch you out.
  • The going was quite easy apart from the odd deep pot that that catches you out by surprise.
  • The stages are very varied, with slow and quick portions and no particular surprises to catch you out, and that's a good thing.
2 Cricket Dismiss a batsman by catching the ball before it touches the ground.
Example sentences
  • Opening the second innings the batsman was caught out for a duck.
  • Australia's Simon Katich is caught out by England's Marcus Trescothick.
  • After 75 minutes Blanc just managed to nick a ball away from Basturk as he waited to strike, but the ball came flashing back in and caught Nicky Butt out.

catch up

Succeed in reaching a person who is ahead of one: he stopped and waited for Lily to catch up
More example sentences
  • The poet hurried to catch up, and when he reached the river, he too stopped and looked around.
  • She kept going further ahead and then turning to wait for them to catch up, as Matthew couldn't move very fast.
  • She broke into a jog, trying to catch up to him before he reached the next piazza a hundred metres down.
draw level (with);
get to, come to, reach;
gain on, gain
3.1Do tasks which one should have done earlier: he normally used the afternoons to catch up on paperwork
More example sentences
  • Oh, and there's a backlog of domestic and business stuff to catch up on.
  • I like having the place to myself, though I have a bunch of housework to catch up on.
  • Public holidays are when I catch up on household chores and visit my ailing parents.

catch up with

1Succeed in reaching a person who is ahead of one: you go with Stasia and Katie, and I’ll catch up with you
More example sentences
  • I shook my head slightly at those thoughts and jogged a little faster, catching up with Matt and Liz ahead.
  • They had actually reached the car when he caught up with them.
  • There were policemen running after him, but it was clear just by the photo that they had no chance of catching up with them.
2Talk to (someone) whom one has not seen for some time in order to find out what they have been doing: it’s a chance to catch up with old friends
More example sentences
  • Two female former schoolmates whom I caught up with two weeks ago also found themselves single recently.
  • Like all these things, it was a good chance to catch up with old friends!
  • Pat said the evening was a chance to catch up with old friends and was thoroughly enjoyable.
3Begin to have a damaging effect on: the physical exertions began to catch up with Sue
More example sentences
  • They began sparring again, but Kristy soon found that her lack of proper amounts of sleep was beginning to catch up with her.
  • All these days and nights without sleep were beginning to catch up with him.
  • My patient's unhealthy lifestyle began to catch up with him peripheral vascular disease, a stroke, and then angina.

catch someone up

1British Succeed in reaching a person who is ahead of one: you go with Tess and I’ll catch you up
More example sentences
  • ‘Whoops, forgot about the slowpoke guys,’ Esmée teased, ‘We'll catch you up, you go ahead and get tickets and such.’
  • In a third of the time he's already caught me up and in the next few weeks he will zoom ahead.
  • A submarine could barely make half this speed - hence the tactic of sailing ahead and anticipating the surface fleet catching you up.
2 (be/get caught up in) Become involved in (something that one had not intended to become involved in): he had no desire to be caught up in political activities
More example sentences
  • The Christmas shopping phenomena has begun and I really do not want to get caught up in that again.
  • Any of us could have been in the shops on the street on Friday and been caught up in what happened.
  • Did I intend to get caught up in some weird drama with a bunch of people I don't know?

catch something up

Pick something up hurriedly: she caught up her jacket and bag and walked to the door
More example sentences
  • She caught up her skirts and moved closer.
  • He caught up his bag and ran towards her.
  • He stood silently as she caught up the gym bag which, he knew, held her regular clothes and the books she would be taking home with her.



Example sentences
  • There are over one million catchable trout in Lake Taupo.
  • Of 99 passes charted against the Giants, Bears and Vikings, 85 were accurate, catchable throws.
  • Smith has excellent hands and rarely misses a catchable ball.


Middle English (also in the sense 'chase'): from Anglo-Norman French and Old Northern French cachier, variant of Old French chacier, based on Latin captare 'try to catch', from capere 'take'.

  • capable from mid 16th century:

    The first recorded sense of this was ‘able to take in’, physically or mentally. It comes from Latin capere ‘take or hold’ which is found in many other English words including: accept (Late Middle English) from ad- ‘to’ and capere; anticipation (Late Middle English) ‘acting or taking in advance’; capacity (Late Middle English) ‘ability to hold’; caption (Late Middle English) originally an act of capture; captive (Late Middle English); catch (Middle English); chase (Middle English); conceive (Middle English) literally ‘take together’; except (Late Middle English) ‘take out of’; incapacity (early 17th century) inability to hold; intercept (Late Middle English) to take between; perceive (Middle English) to hold entirely; prince; receive (Middle English) ‘take back’; susceptible (early 17th century) literally ‘that can be taken from below’.

Words that rhyme with catch

attach, batch, crosshatch, detach, hatch, latch, match, mismatch, natch, outmatch, patch, scratch, thatch

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There are 2 main definitions of catch in English:

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catch-22 2

Pronunciation: /katʃtwɛntɪˈtuː/


A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions: [as modifier]: a catch-22 situation
More example sentences
  • There's always been a bit of a catch 22 about golf - you need to have a handicap to join a club, yet it's very difficult to get that handicap in a civilised way without spending hours on a rain sodden driving range in some murky British suburb.
  • It is a catch-22 situation - without any big stars, the game is always going to have a low profile. But as long as it is low profile, it will struggle to produce big stars.
  • Are we in a catch 22 when in comes to leading a green lifestyle?


1970s: title of a novel by Joseph Heller (1961), in which the main character feigns madness in order to avoid dangerous combat missions, but his desire to avoid them is taken to prove his sanity.

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