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[kath-ohd] /ˈkæθ oʊd/
the electrode or terminal by which current leaves an electrolytic cell, voltaic cell, battery, etc.
the positive terminal of a voltaic cell or battery.
the negative terminal, electrode, or element of an electron tube or electrolytic cell.
Origin of cathode
1825-35; < Greek káthodos a way down, equivalent to kat- cat- + hodós way Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for cathode
  • Different materials for the anode and cathode, of course, affect this back-and-forth movement.
  • Pop artists borrowed images from the cathode-ray bank of imagery, which generously made interest-free loans.
  • The bad news is that this highly efficient system requires an expensive, platinum-based cathode.
  • When the zinc oxidized, it reacted with a cathode and the copper was reduced.
  • For one thing, his display lags behind the best two-dimensional cathode-ray tubes in its ability to resolve fine detail.
  • In this type of cathode, electrons are emitted after they tunnel through a potential barrier.
  • When such a battery is charged, lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode.
  • At the cathode, oxygen molecules combine with electrons and hydrogen ions to form water.
  • Right now, lithium ion batteries use cobalt instead of iron in the cathode.
  • Laptop cold-cathode backlights operate at hundreds or even thousands of volts.
British Dictionary definitions for cathode


the negative electrode in an electrolytic cell; the electrode by which electrons enter a device from an external circuit
the negatively charged electron source in an electronic valve
the positive terminal of a primary cell
Compare anode
Derived Forms
cathodal (kæˈθəʊdəl), cathodic (kæˈθɒdɪk; -ˈθəʊ-), cathodical, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Greek kathodos a descent, from kata- down + hodos way
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cathode

1834, from Latinized form of Greek kathodos "a way down," from kata- "down" (see cata-) + hodos "way" (see cede). Proposed by the Rev. William Whewell (1794-1866), English polymath, and published by English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867). So called from the path the electric current was supposed to take. Related: Cathodic; cathodal. Cathode ray first attested 1880, but the phenomenon known from 1859; cathode ray tube is from 1905.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cathode in Science
  1. The negative electrode in an electrolytic cell, toward which positively charged particles are attracted. The cathode has a negative charge because it is connected to the negatively charged end of an external power supply.

  2. The source of electrons in an electrical device, such as a vacuum tube or diode.

  3. The positive electrode of a voltaic cell, such as a battery. The cathode gets its positive charge from the chemical reaction that happens inside the battery, not from an external source. Compare anode.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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