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climax (n.)

1580s, in the rhetorical sense ("a chain of reasoning in graduating steps from weaker to stronger"), from Late Latin climax (genitive climacis), from Greek klimax "propositions rising in effectiveness," literally "ladder," from suffixed form of PIE root *klei- "to lean."

Originally in rhetoric an arrangement of successive clauses so that the last important word of one is repeated as the first important word of the next, as in Romans v.3-5: "... but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed ...." Compare anadiplosis. From the rhetorical meaning, the word evolved through "series of steps by which a goal is achieved," to "escalating steps," to (1789) "high point of intensity or development," a usage credited by the OED to "popular ignorance."

The meaning "sexual orgasm" is recorded by 1880 (also in terms such as climax of orgasm), and is said to have been promoted from c. 1900 by birth-control pioneer Marie Stopes (1880-1958) and others as a more accessible word than orgasm (n.).

climax (v.)

1835, "to reach the highest point, culminate," from climax (n.). For erotic sense, see the noun. Related: Climaxed; climaxing.

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Definitions of climax from WordNet
1
climax (n.)
the highest point of anything conceived of as growing or developing or unfolding;
the climax of the artist's career
Synonyms: flood tide
climax (n.)
the decisive moment in a novel or play;
the deathbed scene is the climax of the play
Synonyms: culmination
climax (n.)
the moment of most intense pleasure in sexual intercourse;
Synonyms: orgasm / sexual climax / coming
climax (n.)
the most severe stage of a disease;
climax (n.)
arrangement of clauses in ascending order of forcefulness;
2
climax (v.)
end, especially to reach a final or climactic stage;
Synonyms: culminate
From wordnet.princeton.edu