Definition of catch verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//kætʃ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//kætʃ//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they catch
    BrE BrE//kætʃ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//kætʃ//
    he / she / it catches
    BrE BrE//ˈkætʃɪz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈkætʃɪz//
    past simple caught
    BrE BrE//kɔːt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//kɔːt//
    past participle caught
    BrE BrE//kɔːt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//kɔːt//
    -ing form catching
    BrE BrE//ˈkætʃɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈkætʃɪŋ//
    Plane travel, The sun and the moon, Ailments and diseases, Solving crime, Being ill
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  1. 1  [transitive, intransitive] catch (something) to stop and hold a moving object, especially in your hands She managed to catch the keys as they fell. ‘Throw me over that towel, will you?’ ‘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 somebody/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 hopeless at catching mice. How many fish did you catch? See related entries: Solving crime
  6. somebody doing something
  7. 5  [transitive] to find or discover somebody 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. Mark walked in and caught them at it (= in the act of doing something wrong). thieves caught in the act You've caught me at a bad time (= at a time when I am busy).
  8. bus/train/plane
  9. 6  [transitive] catch something to be in time for a bus, train, plane, etc. and get on it We caught the 12.15 from Oxford. I must go—I have a train to catch. See related entries: Plane travel
  10. be in time
  11. 7[transitive] catch somebody/something to be in time to do something, talk to somebody, etc. I caught him just as he was leaving the building. I was hoping to catch you at home (= to see you at home when you were there). The illness can be treated provided it's caught (= discovered) early enough. (British English) to catch the post (= post letters before the box is emptied) (British English, informal) Bye for now! I'll catch you later (= speak to you again later).
  12. see/hear
  13. 8[transitive] catch something (informal, especially North American English) to see or hear something; to attend something Let's eat now and maybe we could catch a movie later. Synonymsseespot catch glimpseThese words all mean to become aware of somebody/​something by using your eyes, especially suddenly or when it is not easy to see them/​it.see to become aware of somebody/​something by using your eyes:She looked for him but couldn’t see him in the crowd. He could see (that) she had been crying.spot to see or notice somebody/​something, especially suddenly or when they are not easy to see or notice:I’ve 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.glimpse (literary) to see somebody/​something for a moment, but not clearly or completely:He’d glimpsed her through the window as he passed.Patterns to see/​spot that/​how/​what/​where/​who… to suddenly see/​spot/​catch/​glimpse somebody/​something
  14. happen unexpectedly
  15. 9  [transitive] catch somebody to happen unexpectedly and put somebody in a difficult situation His arrival caught me by surprise. She got caught in a thunderstorm.
  16. illness
  17. 10  [transitive] to get an illness catch something to catch measles catch something from somebody I think I must have caught this cold from you. See related entries: Ailments and diseases, Being ill
  18. become stuck
  19. 11  [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.
  20. hit
  21. 12[transitive] to hit somebody/something catch somebody/something + adv./prep. The stone caught him on the side of the head. catch somebody something + adv./prep. She caught him a blow on the chin.
  22. notice
  23. 13[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.
  24. hear/understand
  25. 14  [transitive] catch something to hear or understand something Sorry, I didn't quite catch what you said.
  26. interest
  27. 15  [transitive] catch somebody’s interest, imagination, attention, etc. if something catches your interest, etc., you notice it and feel interested in it
  28. show accurately
  29. 16[transitive] catch something to show or describe something accurately synonym capture The artist has caught her smile perfectly.
  30. light
  31. 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.
  32. the sun
  33. 18[transitive] catch the sun (informal) if you catch the sun, you become red or brown because of spending time in the sun See related entries: The sun and the moon
  34. burn
  35. 19[transitive, intransitive] catch (fire) to begin to burn The wooden rafters caught fire. These logs are wet: they won't catch.
  36. in cricket
  37. 20[transitive] catch somebody to make a player unable to continue batting by catching the ball they have hit before it touches the ground
  38. Word OriginMiddle English (also in the sense ‘chase’): from Anglo-Norman French and Old Northern French cachier, variant of Old French chacier, based on Latin captare ‘try to catch’, from capere ‘take’.Extra examples A colourful glow appears as the light catches the glass. Did you catch that show on the radio? He was still hoping to catch the 8.30 ferry. He was thinking of catching a plane home. I threw the bag in the air and she caught it. If you want to catch that bus, you’d better hurry! It is unusual to catch measles more than once. Let’s eat now and maybe we could catch a movie later. Mark walked in and caught them at it. Sorry, I didn’t quite catch what you said. The knife gleamed as it caught the light. The police say they are doing all they can to catch the culprits. Then she had to leave to catch her plane. They caught the 12.15 from Kings Cross. You wouldn’t catch me working on a Sunday. You’ve caught me at a bad time. thieves caught in the actIdioms
      be caught short (British English also be taken short)
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    1. 1(British English, informal) to suddenly feel an urgent need to go to the toilet/bathroom
    2. 2to be put at a disadvantage
    be (caught) in a cleft stick
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    to be in a difficult situation when any action you take will have bad results
    (caught/stuck) between a rock and a hard place
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    in a situation where you have to choose between two things, both of which are unpleasant
    1. 1to stop breathing for a moment because of fear, shock, etc. See related entries: Fear, Showing interest
    2. 2to breathe normally again after running or doing some tiring exercise
    1. 1to become ill with a cold
    2. 2(informal) to have problems The film caught a cold over the outstanding debt.
    catch your death (of cold)
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    (old-fashioned, informal) to catch a very bad cold
    to attract somebody’s attention Can you catch the waiter's eye?
    catch/take somebody’s fancy
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    to attract or please somebody She looked through the hotel advertisements until one of them caught her fancy.
    catch it (British English) (North American English catch hell, get it)
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    (informal) to be punished or spoken to angrily about something If your dad finds out you'll really catch it!
    to get an advantage over somebody by doing something when they are not expecting it and not ready for it
    catch somebody on the hop
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    (informal) to surprise somebody by doing something when they are not expecting it and not ready for it
    catch/touch somebody on the raw
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    (British English) to upset somebody by reminding them of something they are particularly sensitive about
    catch somebody red-handed
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    to catch somebody in the act of doing something wrong or committing a crime
    catch somebody with their pants down (British English also catch somebody with their trousers down)
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    (informal) to arrive or do something when somebody is not expecting it and not ready, especially when they are in an embarrassing situation
    the early bird catches the worm
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    (saying) the person who takes the opportunity to do something before other people will have an advantage over them
      (catch/throw somebody) off balance
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    1. 1to make somebody/something unsteady and in danger of falling I was thrown off balance by the sudden gust of wind.
    2. 2to make somebody surprised and no longer calm The senator was clearly caught off balance by the unexpected question. See related entries: Surprise
    Phrasal Verbsbe caught up in somethingcatch at somethingcatch oncatch on (to something)catch somebody outcatch up (with somebody)catch up on somethingcatch up with somebody
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: catch