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From Ancient Greek κάθαρσις (kátharsis, cleansing, purging), from καθαίρω (kathaírō, I cleanse). Coined in the dramatic-emotional sense by Aristotle.



catharsis (countable and uncountable, plural catharses)

  1. (drama) A release of emotional tension after an overwhelming vicarious experience, resulting in the purging or purification of the emotions, as through watching a dramatic production (especially a tragedy).
    • 2019 April 14, Alex McLevy, “Winter is here on Game Of Thrones' final season premiere (newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[1]:
      True, as the show has entered its later years, there have been more inspired moments of catharsis, but fewer unpredictable arcs and story beats, as a narrative nearing its conclusion is no longer attempting to shock.
  2. Any release of emotional tension to the same effect, more widely.
  3. A purification or cleansing, especially emotional.
  4. (psychology) A therapeutic technique to relieve tension by re-establishing the association of an emotion with the memory or idea of the event that first caused it, and then eliminating it by complete expression (called the abreaction).
  5. (medicine) Purging of the digestive system.

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