< /kəˈθɑr siz/.

  1. the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
  2. Medicine/Medical. purgation.
  3. Psychiatry.
    1. psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable affects.
    2. discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.

noun plural -ses

  1. (in Aristotelian literary criticism) the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear, as in tragedy
  2. psychoanal the bringing of repressed ideas or experiences into consciousness, thus relieving tensionsSee also abreaction
  3. purgation, esp of the bowels

1803, “bodily purging,” from Latinized form of Greek katharsis “purging, cleansing,” from stem of kathairein “to purify, purge,” from katharos “pure, clear of dirt, clean, spotless; open, free; clear of shame or guilt; purified” (with most of the extended senses now found in Modern English clear, clean, pure), of unknown origin. Originally medical in English; of emotions from 1872; psychotherapy sense first recorded 1909, in Brill’s translation of Freud.

n. pl. ca•thar•ses (-sēz)

  1. Purgation.
  2. A psychological technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness.
  3. The therapeutic result of this process; abreaction.

An experience of emotional release and purification, often inspired by or through art. In psychoanalysis, catharsis is the release of tension and anxiety that results from bringing repressed feelings and memories into consciousness.

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