Example: He came up with a catalogue of things his father said or did which upset him.

Is the use of "catalogue" correct in this example? I personally think so, as the word derives from the Greek καταλέγω, which means to "recount, to tell at length, or make a list" (1).

I wanted to use a word that is slightly stronger than list, as catalogue conveys a carefully constructed list in which we place importance. Obviously, this list is important to the son.

What are your thoughts? They would be much appreciated.


I simply feel that the etymology of "catalogue" helps us understand its nuances. That's why I reproduced it. This does not hold true for every word. But I never said it held true for every word. In the cases where it does, I think it's interesting to learn the etymology.

  • 1
    People use it that way all the time...
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 20:46
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    Yes, it is normal; but your argument from Greek is irrelevant.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 22:18
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    @Colin Fine Actually, what I gave wasn't an argument, it was a reason for thinking so. Why not share things we find interesting?
    – ktm5124
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 22:29
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    An argument makes a claim. It attempts to persuade. I did neither. I simply shared my hypothesis.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 22:57
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    And I am pointing out (by the link I referenced) that your hypothesis is without foundation. If you rely on etymology to determine (as opposed to suggest) the meanings of words, you will often get them wrong.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


Yes, catalogue is used with the meaning you are suggesting, usually in relation to bad/negative things:

catalogue noun (bad events)

  • A catalogue of unwanted events is a series of them:

    • The whole holiday was a catalogue of disasters. a catalogue of errors/crimes/complaints

(Cambridge Dictionary)


I think that's correct, although perhaps a bit unusual. I agree that a catalogue can be any kind of systematic, carefully constructed list, not just a list of items sold at a store or a list of books in a library. Merriam-Webster includes this definition: "a complete enumeration of items arranged systematically with descriptive details." And the New Oxford American Dictionary includes "a complete list of items, typically one in alphabetical or other systematic order."

I think however that when using "catalogue" to describe less standard kinds of lists it's perhaps a little more common to use "catalogue" as a verb, e.g., "He catalogued all the things his father said or did that upset him." That sounds more natural to me, although I don't think it makes much difference.

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