1 verb past tense and past participle caught
a) to stop someone after you have been chasing them and prevent them from escaping: "You can't catch me!" she yelled, running away across the field. | If the guerrillas catch you, they will kill you.
b) if the police catch a criminal, they find the criminal and stop him or her from escaping: State police have launched a massive operation to catch the murderer. | The jewel thieves were never caught.
2 FIND SB DOING STH (T) to find or see someone while they are actually doing something wrong or illegal: catch sb doing sth: I caught Howard reading my private letters. | catch sb in the act (of)/catch sb red-handed (=catch someone in the middle of doing something bad): a shoplifter caught in the act | They say Buster was caught red-handed. | catch sb at it BrE spoken: We know he's been cheating, but we've never caught him at it.
3 FIND SB UNPREPARED catch sb unawares/catch sb off guard/catch sb on the hop BrE to do something or happen when someone is not expecting it and not ready to deal with events: a night attack that caught the enemy unawares | Her question caught him off guard. | The dramatic fall in share prices caught even the experts on the hop. | be caught napping informal (=not be ready to deal with something unexpected that happens) | catch sb with their pants/trousers down informal (=make someone feel embarrassed by arriving or doing something when they are not ready)
4 ANIMAL/FISH (T) to trap an animal or fish by using a trap, net, or hook, or by hunting it: It's a useless cat, no good at catching mice. | Last time we went fishing I caught a huge trout. | catching butterflies
a) (I, T) to get hold of and stop an object such as a ball that is moving through the air: Watch - if you throw the ball, Bouncer can catch it in his mouth. | "Chuck me over those cigarettes, would you." "Here you are. Catch!"
b) (T) to suddenly take hold of someone: She stumbled forward but Calum caught her in his arms. | catch hold of: Miss Perry caught hold of my sleeve and pulled me back.
6 ILLNESS (T) to get a disease or illness: My sister has mumps. I hope I haven't caught it. | catch sth from/off: I think I'm getting the flu - I must have caught it off Gerry. | catch your death (of cold) (=get a very bad cold): Don't stand out there in the rain. You'll catch your death.
7 catch a train/plane/bus to get on a train etc in order to travel, or to be in time to get it: Every morning I catch the 7.15 train to London. | There's a train in now. If you run, you'll just catch it. | have a train etc to catch: I have to hurry - I have a bus to catch
-see reach 1
8 BE IN TIME (T) to not be too late to see something, talk to someone etc: I managed to catch her just as she was leaving. | catch the post BrE (=post letters in time for them to be collected that day)
-opposite miss 1 (5)
9 GET STUCK (I, T) if your hand, finger, clothing etc catches or is caught in something, it becomes stuck or fastened there: "What happened to your finger?" "It got caught in the car door." | Bobby caught his shirt on a wire fence.
10 catch sb's attention/interest/imagination etc if something catches your attention etc, you notice it or feel interested in it: The unusual panelling on the wall caught our attention. | a story that will catch the imagination of every child | catch sb's eye (=get sb's attention): We need big, bold headlines - something to catch the reader's eye.
11 HEAR/UNDERSTAND not catch sth to not hear or not understand what someone says: Could you say that again? I didn't catch the last bit. | I'm afraid I didn't catch your name. | Did you catch the announcement?
12 NOTICE (transitive not in progressive) to see or notice something for a moment: catch sight of/catch a glimpse of: I suddenly caught sight of her in the crowd. | Fans waited at the airport hoping to catch a glimpse of Gloria Estefan. | catch a whiff of (=notice a smell for a moment): Brad caught a whiff of smoke in the air.
13 DESCRIBE WELL (T) to show or describe very successfully the character or quality of something, in a picture, a piece of writing etc: a novel that catches the mood of pre-war Britain
a) catch fire if something catches fire, it starts to burn accidentally: Two farm workers died when a barn caught fire.
-see fire 1
b) (I) if a fire catches it starts to burn: For some reason the charcoal isn't catching.
15 you won't catch me doing sth spoken used to say that you would never do something: You won't catch me ironing all his cotton shirts!
16 be caught up in to be involved in something unwillingly: Children who were caught up in the crime are getting a lot of media attention.
17 catch yourself doing sth to suddenly realize that you are doing something: Monica sometimes caught herself envying her students.
18 PROBLEM (T) to discover a problem and stop it from developing any more: This kind of cancer can be cured, provided it is caught early enough.
19 HIT (T) to hit someone: catch sb on the chin/face etc: I caught him on the chin with a heavy punch.
a) also catch out (T) to end a player's innings in cricket (2) by taking and holding a ball hit off their bat 1 (2a) before it touches the ground
b) (I) to be the catcher in a game of baseball
21 BE PUNISHED you'll catch it BrE spoken used to tell someone that they are going to be in trouble because they have done something wrong: You'll catch it if your mother finds out where you've been.
22 IN A BAD SITUATION be caught in/without etc to be in a situation that is difficult, because you cannot easily get out of it or because you do not have what you need: We got caught in a rainstorm on the way here. | an actor caught without a script
23 catch your breath
a) to stop breathing for a moment because something has surprised, frightened or shocked you
b) to pause for a moment after a lot of physical effort in order to breathe normally again: Hang on a minute, let me catch my breath!
24 SHINE ON (T) if the light catches something or if something catches the light, the light shines on it making it look bright: The sunlight caught her hair and turned it to gold.
25 CONTAINER (T) if a container catches liquid, it is in a position where the liquid falls into it: Steve! Bring me something to catch the drips under this pipe..
26 catch the sun informal to become sunburned (sunburn) so that your skin is red: You've caught the sun on the back of your neck.
catch at sth phrasal verb (T) to try to take hold of something: "You mean there's a real fire?" Heather caught at his arm. catch on phrasal verb (I)
1 to become popular and fashionable: It was a popular style in Britain but it never really caught on in America.
2 to begin to understand or realize something
(+ to): It was a long time before the police caught on to what he was really doing. catch sb out phrasal verb (T) BrE
1 to make someone make a mistake, especially in order to prove that they are lying: It's a useful technique for handling people who are trying to catch you out.
2 if an unexpected event catches you out, it puts you in a difficult situation, because you were not ready to deal with it: Didn't they ever tell you they in fact got caught out by the weather?
catch up phrasal verb
1 (I, T) to improve so much that you reach the same standard as other people in your class, group etc: If you miss a lot of lessons, it's very difficult to catch up.
(+ with): At the moment our technology is more advanced, but other countries are catching up with us.
2 (I, T) to come from behind and reach someone in front by going faster
(+ with): Drive faster, they're catching up with us. | catch sb up: You go on ahead. I'll catch you up later.
3 (I) to do what needs to be done because you have not been able to do it until now
(+ on): I have some work to catch up on. | a chance to catch up on some sleep (=after a period without enough sleep) | You have a lot of catching up to do. catch up with sb phrasal verb (T)
1 to finally find someone who has been doing something illegal and punish them: It took six years for the law to catch up with them.
2 if troubles, duties etc catch up with you, you cannot avoid them any longer
2 noun
1 (C) informal a hidden problem or difficulty; snag 1 (1): The rent is only $40 a week - there must be a catch somewhere. | the catch is (that): The catch is that you can't enter the competition unless you've spent $100 in the store.
2 (C) a hook or something similar for fastening a door or lid and keeping it shut
3 (C) an act of catching a ball that has been thrown or hit: Hey! Nice catch!
4 (C) an amount of fish that has been caught: Local fishermen are reporting record catches.
5 (U) a simple game in which two or more people throw a ball to each other: Let's go outside and play catch.
6 be a good catch old-fashioned if a man is a good catch, he is regarded as a very desirable husband, because he is rich and good-looking

Longman dictionary of contemporary English. 2004.

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