The Meaning of Cathartic: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of cathartic? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word cathartic, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word cathartic mean?

According to the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and Collins English Dictionary, the word cathartic is an adjective that means purging of unwanted material, spiritual cleansing, or creating catharsis. This can be used figuratively to describe some emotional release or literally as a medical term to describe a laxative or thing that stimulates the evacuation of the bowels, though this is not the typical current usage of the word. In a medical sense, it refers to a specific purging medicine of magnesium sulfate, magnesium citrate, sodium sulfate, sorbitol, and others. This is a purgative consisting of a milky white liquid suspension of magnesium hydroxide, usually given in smaller doses for the flu along with other complex therapies or for blockages with a copious amount of drinks. While it is uncomfortable, it works by effective means. Cathartic has three syllables – ca-thar-tic, and the pronunciation of cathartic is kəˈθɑrtɪk. 

There are many different languages that also contain words meaning cathartic. You may notice that many of these words look and sound similar to each other. These are called cognates, which are words that look, sound, and mean something similar across languages. Cognates are often formed when two words or languages have a common root or ancestral language such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word cathartic is provided by Word Sense

  •  Swedish: förlösande‎, renande‎
  •  French: cathartique‎
  •  Romanian: cathartic‎
  •  Russian: слаби́тельный‎
  •  Hungarian: katartikus‎
  •  Finnish: ulostuksen aikaansaava‎
  •  German: erlösend‎, kathartisch‎, abführend‎
  •  Portuguese: catártico‎
  •  Dutch: louterend‎, lbevrijdend‎
  •  Bulgarian: разхлаби́телен‎

How can the word cathartic be used in a sentence?

The word cathartic can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to solidify the memorization of their definitions. You can also make flashcards or quizzes to test yourself on your vocabulary. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several examples of the word cathartic to help get your started.

June tried not to cry, but her tears were the cathartic moment she needed. She didn’t want pity, she just needed a trace of release to move on. 

The cathartic method of dealing with anxiety was a bit of an odd method of treatment. Her therapist wanted her to scream at herself in the mirror about her own behavior, then reflect.

Tearing the New York Times book review and the reviews from the various online news sources who wrote horrible feedback on her debut novel was a cathartic experience. It let her move through the trauma and find a new wave of consciousness.

The public health nurse gave the patient high-dose cathartics and psyllium seed husks to rid the lower gastrointestinal tract of toxins and eliminate the form of gastrointestinal decontamination based on the original report by the doctor. She looked out for any gastrointestinal bleeding that might have shown up in defecation.

The influenza patients were at risk for dehydration from their diarrhea due to the ingestion of food poisoning as well as the risk of electrolyte imbalances. The bulk of the feces was liquid – such a tragedy – so the doctor was wary to prescribe any medication that mentions cathartics.

Her expressive writing was so cathartic for moving through her traumatic experiences. She would pour herself a bath full of epsom salts and bitter aloes and write free association until she felt she had closure – by this point, the effervescing salt had stopped fizzing. This was far more helpful than the Freudian psychoanalysis her previous doctor tried.

The survivors of the tragedy at Princeton University visited the mental health clinic group together weekly with their peers to try and release come catharsis and get closure.

What is the origin of the word cathartic?

According to Etymonline, the adjective cathartic entered English in the 1610s to describe medicine. This comes from the Late Latin catharticus and Greek kathartikos, from the Greek katharsis, katharos, and the Greek word kathairein. This word has been used in a general sense since the 1670s.

What are synonyms and antonyms of cathartic?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word cathartic. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same or a similar meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English grammatical tool to have in your arsenal. They can help you expand your English language vocabulary, adn help you avoid repeating the same word over and over again. There are few different words that have the opposite meaning as the word cathartic, but these would be known as antonyms. This list of synonyms for the word cathartic is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  purgatory
  •  therapeutic
  •  purifier
  •  aperient
  •  purge
  •  detersive
  •  cleansing
  •  clearing
  •  cleaning
  •  medicinal
  •  purging
  •  beneficial
  •  life changing
  •  purification
  •  disinfectant
  •  alleviating
  •  purgatorial
  •  curative
  •  cathartical
  •  life-changing
  •  emetic
  •  soap powder
  •  suds
  •  transformative
  •  abstergent
  •  healing
  •  releasing
  •  physic
  •  eliminative
  •  purgatives
  •  mitigative
  •  psychotherapeutic
  •  emotional
  •  enema
  •  eliminatory
  •  purgative
  •  salubrious
  •  wash
  •  evacuant
  •  purificatory
  •  detergent
  •  purifying
  •  transmuting
  •  medical
  •  excretory
  •  laxative
  •  physics
  •  evacuative
  •  transformational
  •  cleanser
  •  depurative

Overall, the word cathartic means emotionally releasing. There are also various medical definitions and therapeutic uses for cathartics and laxatives. People often use the word catharsis to discuss an emotional release. Maybe this includes punching a mattress or screaming into a pillow just to feel a release. In medical situations, cathartics are usually prescribed for constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal problems.


  1. cathartic: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Cathartic synonyms – 223 Words and Phrases for Cathartic | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Cathartic definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  4. cathartic | Origin and meaning of cathartic | Online Etymology Dictionary