Definitions

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')

Etymologies

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)

Examples

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • " 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." --Cent. Dict.

    June 12, 2012

  • sightful bats dancing

    April 19, 2009

  • From American Heritage Dictionary:

    1. The misapplication of a word or phrase, as the use of blatant to mean "flagrant."

    2. The use of a strained figure of speech, such as a mixed metaphor.

    July 23, 2007