1. an effort to reach or pass a norm, especially after a period of delay: After the slowdown there was a catch-up in production.
  2. an effort to catch up with or surpass a competitor, as in a sports contest.
  3. an instance of catching up.


  1. intended to keep up with or surpass a norm or competitor: a catch-up pay raise to offset inflation.

  1. play catch-up, Informal. to make a special effort to overcome a late start, a liability, or the advantage a competitor has: After Russia launched the first space satellite, other countries had to play catch-up.

“a working to overtake a leading rival,” by 1971, probably a figurative use from U.S. football in reference to being behind in the score. From verbal phrase catch up, which was used from early 14c. in sense “raise aloft” and from 1855 in sense “overtake;” see catch (v.) + up (adv.).

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