Word of the Day

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


\KAT-uh-rakt\ , noun;
A great fall of water over a precipice; a large waterfall.
A downpour; a flood.
A clouding or opacity of the lens or capsule of the eye, which obstructs the passage of light.
Niagara is no virgin. Today, its cataract can be stopped with the pull of a lever, and less than half its natural flow pours over the precipice.
-- Thurston Clarke, "Roll Out the Barrel", New York Times, February 16, 1997
Bartram was an ace self-dramatizer and avid explorer of nature, whose journals are full of blood and thunder and such dramatic observations of animals as this one of the American crocodile: "His enormous body swells. His plaited tail brandished high, floats upon the lake. The waters like a cataract descend from his opening jaws. Clouds of smoke issue from his dilated nostrils."
-- Diane Ackerman, "Nature Writers: A Species Unto Themselves", New York Times, May 13, 1990
So ambitious is he to detail the full background of every individual, group, institution or phenomenon that figures in his chronicle . . . that a reader sometimes founders in the cataract of details.
-- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Common Ground, by J. Anthony Lukasm, New York Times, September 12, 1985
A cataract of names spills over the pages: Henry Kissinger, G. Gordon Liddy, Betty Ford, Frank Sinatra, Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
-- Richard F. Shepard, "How '60 Minutes' Ticks", New York Times, December 25, 1985
Cataract is from Latin cataracta, "a waterfall, a portcullis," from Greek kataraktes, katarrhaktes, from katarassein, "to dash down," from kata-, "down" + arassein, "to strike, dash."
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