catch - definition and synonyms


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present tense
present participlecatching
past tensecaught
past participlecaught
  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to stop and hold something that is moving through the air, especially an object that someone throws

    She tossed the packet of crisps to Kate, who caught it with one hand.

    ‘Can I borrow your pen?’ ‘Here, catch!’

    1. a.
      [transitive] to stop and keep hold of someone who is falling

      Anne stayed close enough to catch the child if he fell.

    2. b.



      catch out

      [transitive] British to end a cricketer’s period of play by stopping and keeping hold of a ball they have hit before it touches the ground
       Synonyms and related words
    3. c.
      [intransitive] to be the catcher in baseball
    4. d.
      [transitive] if a container catches liquid or small objects or pieces, they fall into it when it is below them

      Put a bucket over there to catch the drips as they fall.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to get hold of and stop someone you have been chasing so that they cannot escape

    She raced to catch the toddler before he could make it out of the front gate.

    ‘Can’t catch me,’ her brother shouted as he ran up the stairs.

    1. a.
      to take hold of someone or a part of their body with your hands

      Jack caught her as she made for the door.

      catch someone by the wrist/elbow/sleeve etc:

      With one swift movement, he caught her by the wrist.

      catch hold of someone/something:

      She caught hold of his arm and pulled him back.

  3. 3
    [transitive] if the police catch someone, they find them and arrest them

    The police say they’re doing all they can to catch the culprits.

  4. 4
    [transitive] to get on a train, bus, plane, or boat that is travelling somewhere

    I caught the next train back to London.

    1. a.
      to arrive in time to get on a train, bus, plane, or boat that is travelling somewhere

      If we want to catch that bus we’ll have to leave right now.

      have a train/bus/plane etc to catch:

      I have a train to catch, so we have to finish by 4.30.

  5. 5
    [transitive] to stop an animal, bird, or insect and prevent it from escaping, especially using a trap
    1. a.
      to hunt and stop an animal in order to kill and eat it
    2. b.
      to get a fish from a river, lake, or sea, using a fishing net or rod
      freshly/locally caught:

      freshly caught trout

  6. 6
    [transitive] to find someone doing something that they do not expect you to see, especially something wrong or illegal
    catch someone doing something:

    Several times she’d caught him staring at her.

    catch someone red-handed (=find someone doing something wrong or illegal):

    Diana was caught red-handed taking money from her mother’s purse.

    catch someone in the act (of doing something):

    Burglars who are caught in the act have little chance of escaping punishment.

    catch someone at it:

    They’ve been trying to catch her at it, but she’s too clever.

  7. 7
    [transitive] to find someone in a situation that they are not expecting or prepared for
    catch someone at a bad moment/time:

    I’ve obviously caught you at a bad moment. I’ll come back later.

  8. 8
    [transitive] to see or smell something for a very short time
    catch a glimpse of someone/something:

    People lined the streets outside the theatre to catch a glimpse of her.

    catch sight of someone/something:

    As she went out, she caught sight of herself in the mirror.

    catch a whiff of something (=smell something):

    Adam caught a whiff of expensive perfume as she passed by.

  9. 9
    [transitive] to have a sudden effect on something such as someone’s attention or imagination

    His campaign seems to have caught the imagination of many other Germans.

  10. 10
    [transitive] to get a disease or illness

    He caught the flu and had to stay in bed.

    catch something from someone/something:

    Brian caught chickenpox from his nephew.

    catch your death (of cold) (=get a bad cold):

    Get out of those wet clothes or you’ll catch your death of cold.

  11. 11
    [transitive] [usually in negatives or questions] to hear something that someone says

    The music was so loud I didn’t catch what he said.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.

  12. 12
    [transitive] to find someone available to talk by going to or telephoning them at the place where they are

    Call me at the office. You can usually catch me there after 8.30.

    Margaret caught me just as I was leaving.

  13. 14
    [transitive] informal to see, watch, or listen to something

    Want to catch a film tonight?

  14. 15
    [intransitive/transitive] to become stuck on something, or to make something do this

    As she ran, her foot caught on something and she fell.

    I must have caught my shirt on a nail when I was moving that wood.

  15. 16
    [transitive] if light catches something, or if something catches the light, the light shines on it and makes it look bright and shiny

    A fish in the river catches the light one second and swims off into a dark pool the next.

     Synonyms and related words
  16. 17
    [transitive] if the wind or a wave catches something, it gets behind or under it and suddenly blows or pushes it hard

    The balloon was caught by the wind and carried away.

  17. 18
    [transitive] to hit someone on a part of their body

    He caught his opponent with a right cross to the chin.

     Synonyms and related words
    1. a.
      to hit part of your body on something by accident

      Sue slipped in the yard and caught her head on the gate post.

  18. 19
    [transitive] to show or represent something in a way that people can easily recognize

    It wasn’t a very radical or intellectual newspaper, but it caught a mood of dissent in mid-1950s America.

  19. 20
    [intransitive/transitive] to start to burn

    The dry twigs soon caught fire.