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early 15c., "a waterfall, floodgate," from Latin cataracta "waterfall," from Greek katarhaktes "waterfall, broken water; a kind of portcullis," noun use of an adjective compound meaning "swooping, down-rushing," from kata "down" (see cata-). The second element is traced either to arhattein "to strike hard" (in which case the compound is kat-arrhattein), or to rhattein "to dash, break."
Its alternative sense in Latin of "portcullis" probably was passed through French to form the English meaning "eye disease" (early 15c.), on the notion of "obstruction" (to eyesight).
cataract cat·a·ract (kāt'ə-rākt')
Opacity of the lens or capsule of the eye, causing impairment of vision or blindness.