Word of the Day

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

cataract

\KAT-uh-rakt\ , noun;
1.
A great fall of water over a precipice; a large waterfall.
2.
A downpour; a flood.
3.
A clouding or opacity of the lens or capsule of the eye, which obstructs the passage of light.
Quotes:
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
Origin:
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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