Etymology
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catalyst (n.)

"substance which speeds a chemical reaction but itself remains unchanged," 1900, formed in English (on analogy of analyst) from catalysis. Figurative use by 1943.

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Definitions of catalyst

catalyst (n.)
(chemistry) a substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected;
Synonyms: accelerator
catalyst (n.)
something that causes an important event to happen;
the invasion acted as a catalyst to unite the country
From wordnet.princeton.edu