American English

Definition of catch verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they catch
    he / she / it catches
    past simple caught
    -ing form catching
    jump to other results
  1. 1[transitive] catch something to stop and hold a moving object, especially in your hands She managed to catch the keys as they fell. “Would you throw me a towel?” “OK. Catch!” The dog caught the stick in its mouth.
  2. 2[transitive] catch something to hold a liquid when it falls The roof was leaking and I had to use a bucket to catch the drips.
  3. 3[transitive] catch somebody/something (+ adv./prep.) to take hold of someone or something He caught hold of her arm as she tried to push past him.
  4. capture
  5. 4[transitive] catch somebody/something to capture a person or an animal that tries or would try to escape The murderer was never caught. Our cat is useless at catching mice. How many fish did you catch?
  6. someone doing something
  7. 5[transitive] to find or discover someone doing something, especially something wrong catch somebody doing something I caught her smoking in the bathroom. You wouldn't catch me working (= I would never work) on a Sunday! catch yourself doing something She caught herself wondering whether she had made a mistake. catch somebody + adv./prep. He was caught with bomb-making equipment in his home. thieves caught in the act You've caught me at a bad time (= at a time when I am busy).
  8. be in time
  9. 6[transitive] catch somebody/something to be in time to do something, talk to someone, etc. I caught him just as he was leaving the building. I was hoping to catch you at home (= to telephone you at home when you were there). The disease can be treated provided it's caught (= discovered) early enough. (informal) Bye! I'll catch you later (= speak to you again later).
  10. bus/train/plane
  11. 7[transitive] catch something to be in time for a bus, train, plane, etc. and get on it We caught the 12:15 from Grand Central. I have to go—I have a train to catch.
  12. happen unexpectedly
  13. 8[transitive] catch somebody to happen unexpectedly and put someone in a difficult situation His arrival caught me by surprise. She got caught in a thunderstorm.
  14. see/hear
  15. 9[transitive] catch something (informal) to see or hear something; to attend something Let's eat now and maybe we could catch a movie later. Thesaurusseespot catchThese words all mean to become aware of someone or something by using your eyes, especially suddenly or when it is not easy to see them/it.see to become aware of someone or something by using your eyes:She looked for him but couldn't see him in the crowd. He could see (that) she had been to see or notice someone or something, especially suddenly or when they are/it is not easy to see or notice:I just spotted a mistake on the front cover.catch to see or notice something for a moment, but not clearly or completely:She caught sight of a car in the distance. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.Patterns to suddenly see/spot/catch sight of somebody/something
  16. 10[transitive] catch something to hear or understand something Excuse me, I didn't catch what you said.
  17. illness
  18. 11[transitive] to get an illness catch something to catch the measles catch something from somebody I think I must have caught this cold from you.
  19. become stuck
  20. 12[intransitive, transitive] to become stuck in or on something; to make something become stuck catch (in/on something) Her dress caught on a nail. catch something (in/on something) He caught his thumb in the door.
  21. hit
  22. 13[transitive] to hit someone or something catch somebody/something + adv./prep. The stone caught him on the side of the head.
  23. notice
  24. 14[transitive] catch something to notice something only for a moment She caught sight of a car in the distance. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. I caught a look of surprise on her face. He caught a whiff of her perfume.
  25. interest
  26. 15[transitive] catch somebody's interest, imagination, attention, etc. if something catches your interest, etc., you notice it and feel interested in it
  27. show accurately
  28. 16[transitive] catch something to show or describe something accurately synonym capture The artist has caught her smile perfectly.
  29. light
  30. 17[transitive] catch something if something catches the light or the light catches it, the light shines on it and makes it shine too The knife gleamed as it caught the light.
  31. burn
  32. 18[transitive, intransitive] catch (fire) to begin to burn The wooden rafters caught fire. These logs are wet—they won't catch.
  33. Idioms
    be caught short
    jump to other results
    to be put at a disadvantage
    (caught/stuck) between a rock and a hard place
    jump to other results
    in a situation where you have to choose between two things, both of which are unpleasant
      catch your breath
      jump to other results
    1. 1to stop breathing for a moment because of fear, shock, etc.
    2. 2to breathe normally again after running or doing some tiring exercise
    catch your death (of cold) (old-fashioned) (informal)
    jump to other results
    to catch a very bad cold
    catch somebody's eye
    jump to other results
    to attract someone's attention Can you catch the waiter's eye?
    catch/take/strike somebody's fancy
    jump to other results
    to attract or please someone She looked through the hotel ads until one of them caught her fancy.
    catch hell (also catch it, get it) (informal)
    jump to other results
    to be punished or spoken to angrily about something If your dad finds out you'll really catch hell!
    catch somebody napping
    jump to other results
    to get an advantage over someone by doing something when they are not expecting it and not ready for it
    catch somebody on the hop (informal)
    jump to other results
    to surprise someone by doing something when they are not expecting it and not ready for it
    catch somebody red-handed
    jump to other results
    to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong or committing a crime
    catch somebody with their pants down (informal)
    jump to other results
    to arrive or do something when someone is not expecting it and not ready, especially when they are in an embarrassing situation
      (catch/throw somebody) off balance
      jump to other results
    1. 1to make someone or something unsteady and in danger of falling I was thrown off balance by the sudden gust of wind.
    2. 2to make someone surprised or confused The senator was clearly caught off balance by the unexpected question.
    Phrasal Verbsbe/get caught up in somethingcatch at somethingcatch oncatch on (to something)catch somebody outcatch up (on something)catch up (with somebody)catch up with somebody
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: catch