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From Latin clīmax, from Ancient Greek κλῖμαξ (klîmax, ladder, staircase, [rhetorical] climax), from κλίνω (klínō, I lean, slant).


  • enPR: klīʹ-măks IPA(key): /ˈklaɪmæks/
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climax (countable and uncountable, plural climaxes)

  1. (originally rhetoric) A rhetorical device in which a series is arranged in ascending order.
    • 1589, George Puttenham, The arte of English poesie, Pt. iii, Ch. xix, l. 173:
      A figure which... by his Greeke and Latine originals... may be called the marching figure... it may aswell be called the clyming figure, for Clymax is as much to say as a ladder.
  2. (obsolete) An instance of such an ascending series.
    • 1781, John Moore, A view of society and manners in Italy, Vol. I, Ch. vi, p. 63:
      ...Expressions for the whole Climax of sensibility...
    • 1788 June, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, “Mr. Sheridan’s Speech, on Summing Up the Evidence on the Second, or Begum Charge against Warren Hastings, Esq., Delivered before the High Court of Parliament, June 1788”, in Select Speeches, Forensick and Parliamentary, with Prefatory Remarks by N[athaniel] Chapman, M.D., volume I, [Philadelphia, Pa.]: Published by Hopkins and Earle, no. 170, Market Street, published 1808, OCLC 230944105, page 474:
      The Begums' ministers, on the contrary, to extort from them the disclosure of the place which concealed the treasures, were, [] after being fettered and imprisoned, led out on to a scaffold, and this array of terrours proving unavailing, the meek tempered Middleton, as a dernier resort, menaced them with a confinement in the fortress of Chunargar. Thus, my lords, was a British garrison made the climax of cruelties!
  3. (now commonly) A culmination or acme: the last term in an ascending series, particularly:
    • 1789, Trifler, 448, No. XXXV:
      In the accomplishment of this, they frequently reach the climax of absurdity.
    1. (rhetoric, imprecise) The final term of a rhetorical climax.
      • 1856, Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits, Ch. ix, p. 147:
        When he adds epithets of praise, his climax is ‘so English’.
    2. (ecology) The culmination of ecological development, whereby species are in equilibrium with their environment.
      • 1915 July 17, Bulletin of the Illinois State Laboratory:
        The succession of associations leading to a climax represents the process of adjustment to the conditions of stress, and the climax represents a condition of relative equilibrium. Climax associations... are the resultants of certain climatic, geological... conditions.
    3. The culmination of sexual pleasure, an orgasm.
      • 1918, Marie Carmichael Stopes, Married love, 50:
        In many cases the man's climax comes so swiftly that the woman's reactions are not nearly ready.
    4. (narratology) The culmination of a narrative's rising action, the turning point.



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climax (third-person singular simple present climaxes, present participle climaxing, simple past and past participle climaxed)

  1. To reach or bring to a climax
    • 2012 May 31, Tasha Robinson, “Film: Review: Snow White And The Huntsman”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name)[1]:
      Huntsman starts out with a vision of Theron that’s specific, unique, and weighted in character, but it trends throughout toward generic fantasy tropes and black-and-white morality, and climaxes in a thoroughly familiar face-off.
  2. To orgasm; to reach orgasm

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climax m (uncountable)

  1. climax (all senses)

Derived termsEdit



climax m (plural climax)

  1. climax