c. 1200, "to take, capture," from Anglo-French or Old North French cachier "catch, capture" animals (Old French chacier "hunt, pursue, drive" animals, Modern French chasser "to hunt"), from Vulgar Latin *captiare "try to seize, chase" (also source of Spanish cazar, Italian cacciare), from Latin captare "to take, hold," frequentative of capere "to take, hold" (from PIE root *kap- "to grasp"). A doublet of chase (v.).
Its senses in early Middle English also included "to chase, hunt," which later went with chase (v.). Of sleep, etc., from early 14c.; of infections from 1540s; of fire from 1734 (compare Greek aptō "fasten, join, attach, grasp, touch," also "light, kindle, set on fire, catch on fire"). Related: Catched (obsolete); catching; caught.
The meaning "act as a catcher in baseball" is recorded from 1865. To catch on "apprehend, understand" is by 1884, American English colloquial. To catch the eye "draw the attention" is attested by 1718. Catch as catch can has roots in late 14c. (cacche who that cacche might).
late 14c., "device to hold a latch of a door," also "a trap;" also "a fishing vessel," from catch (v.). The meaning "action of catching" is attested from 1570s. The meaning "that which is caught or worth catching" (later especially of spouses) is from 1590s. The sense of "hidden cost, qualification, etc.; something by which the unwary may be entrapped" is slang first attested 1855 in writings of P.T. Barnum.
from the title of Joseph Heller's 1961 novel, but the phrase became widespread after release of the movie based on the book in 1970. The catch (n.) is that a bomber pilot is insane if he flies combat missions without asking to be relieved from duty, and thus he is eligible to be relieved from duty. But asking to be relieved from duty indicates sanity and thus he must keep flying missions.
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.
"one who catches," in any sense, mid-14c., agent noun from catch (v.). Baseball sense is from 1867.
1580s, of diseases, "communicating, infectious," present-participle adjective from catch (v.). From 1650s as "captivating." Related: Catchingly.