"a working to overtake a leading rival," by 1971, probably a figurative use from U.S. football in reference to being behind in the score. The verbal phrase catch up was used from early 14c. in the sense of "raise aloft," it is attested from c. 1400 as "to take up suddenly," and by 1846 in the sense of "get to the same point, overtake;" see catch (v.) + up (adv.).
updated on November 13, 2022
Dictionary entries near catch-up