Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

catch - definition and synonyms


What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.



Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     catch pronunciation in American English
Word Forms
present tense
present participlecatching
past tensecaught
past participlecaught
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to stop and hold something that is moving through the air, especially an object that someone throws

    She tossed the bag of potato chips 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.
      [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.

    3. c.
      [intransitive] to be the catcher in baseball
  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 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 the ocean, using a fishing net or rod
      freshly/locally caught:

      freshly caught trout

  5. 5
    [transitive] to get on a train, bus, airplane, or boat that is traveling somewhere

    I caught the next train back to New York.

    1. a.
      to arrive in time to get on a train, bus, airplane, or boat that is traveling 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.

  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 in the act (of doing something):

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

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

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

  7. 7
    [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.

  8. 8
    [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 time. I’ll come back later.

  9. 9
    [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.

  10. 10
    [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.

  11. 11
    [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.

  12. 12
    [intransitive/transitive] to start to burn

    The dry twigs soon caught fire.

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

    Want to catch a movie tonight?

  14. 15
    [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.

  15. 16
    [transitive] to see or smell something for a very short time
    catch sight of someone/something:

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

    catch a glimpse of someone/something:

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

    catch a whiff of something (=smell something):

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

  16. 17
    [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.

  17. 18
    [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.

  18. 19
    [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.

  19. 20
    [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.

Open Dictionary


a rise in the level of a stream or river

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play