from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. The misapplication of a word or phrase, as the use of blatant to mean "flagrant.”
- n. The use of a strained figure of speech, such as a mixed metaphor.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A figure by which one word is wrongly put for another, or by which a word is wrested from its true signification; as, “To take arms against a sea of troubles”. Shak. “Her voice was but the shadow of a sound.” Young.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In rhet.: A figure by which a word is used to designate an object, idea, or act to which it can be applied only by an exceptional or undue extension of its proper sphere of meaning: as, to stone (pelt) a person with bricks; a palatable tone; to display one's horsemanship in riding a mule; to drink from a horn of ivory.
- n. In philology, the employment of a word under a false form through misapprehension in regard to its origin: thus, causeway and crawfish or crayfish have their forms by catachresis.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. strained or paradoxical use of words either in error (as `blatant' to mean `flagrant') or deliberately (as in a mixed metaphor: `blind mouths')
Latin catachrēsis, improper use of a word, from Greek katakhrēsis, excessive use, from katakhrēsthai, to misuse : kata-, completely; see cata- + khrēsthai, to use; see gher-2 in Indo-European roots.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin catachrēsis, from Ancient Greek κατάχρησις (katakhrēsis, "misuse (of a word)"), from καταχρῆσθαι (katakhrēsthai, "to misuse"), from κατά (kata, "pervertedly") + χρῆσθαι (khrēsthai, "to use"). (Wiktionary)