Catch Feelings: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
June 23, 2023

The idiom "catch feelings" refers to developing emotional or romantic feelings for someone, often unexpectedly or unintentionally. This usually happens in a situation where one doesn't intend to get emotionally involved.

In short:

"Catch feelings" means to unexpectedly or unintentionally develop romantic feelings or emotional attachment for someone.

What Does "Catch Feelings" Mean?

When someone "catches feelings" for another person, it typically implies that they have fallen for them or have become emotionally involved in a way they did not initially foresee.

Let's delve into its fundamental meanings and usage:

  • It describes a person's experience of falling in love or developing strong emotions, often in a surprising or unintended manner.
  • It often implies an element of surprise or a sudden realization of one's feelings.
  • People use it in casual or informal settings, often in conversations related to relationships, dating, or love.
  • Another use of the phrase is to warn someone against becoming too emotionally invested in a situation or relationship that may not be well-suited for them.

Where Does "Catch Feelings" Come From?

The phrase "catch feelings" is a relatively recent addition to the colloquial English language, with its origins in American English. While the exact origin is not definitively known, it's reasonable to believe that the phrase was influenced by the metaphorical application of "catch," similarly used in expressions like "catch a cold," conveying the sudden and often unexpected nature of the event.

In the example below, "catch feelings" is used metaphorically to explain how children can easily and unconsciously absorb or "catch" the emotions and attitudes displayed by their parents or caretakers.

Historical Example

"Children catch feelings like they catch the mumps; they catch anxiety and fear about themselves from parents, even though no words of worry are heard."

- Learning Disabilities Due to Minimal Brain Dysfunction, 1971

10 Examples of "Catch Feelings" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom in use:

  • I didn't mean to catch feelings for him, but the more we hung out, the more I liked him.
  • They were just friends at first, but eventually, she started to catch feelings.
  • After leaving me on read, I surprisingly started to catch feelings for her.
  • Despite their initial agreement to keep things casual, he started to catch feelings for her.
  • Catching feelings for your best friend. Is it a boon or a bane?
  • He warned her not to catch feelings, as he was not looking for anything serious.
  •  The abrupt confession of his love threw me off; catching feelings for him was never on my plan.
  • Despite the best-laid plans to keep our relationship purely platonic, I couldn't help but catch feelings.
  • Amidst the hustle and bustle of my new job, I didn't expect to catch feelings for someone so quickly.
  • I've learned that it's entirely normal to catch feelings for a close friend unexpectedly.

Examples of "Catch Feelings" in Pop Culture

The phrase "catch feelings" frequently appears in pop culture, usually in the context of unexpected romantic emotions or relationships.

Let's review some instances:

  • A quote from the 2005 book "Accidental Diva" by Tia Williams: "Save disastrous Shawn, they'd never known her to catch feelings for anybody."
  • "Catching Feelings" is a song by Canadian singer Justin Bieber, featured on his third studio album, "Believe" (2012). The lyrics revolve around the theme of unexpectedly developing romantic feelings for someone and the uncertainty that comes with it.
  • "Catching Feelings" (2017), directed by South African filmmaker Kagiso Lediga, is a dark romantic comedy set in Johannesburg that follows a young academic and his wife as their lives are upended by the arrival of a hedonistic older writer. The film explores the complexities of relationships, jealousy, and temptation as the couple navigates their evolving dynamic with the charismatic newcomer.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Catch Feelings"

There are numerous alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "catch feelings."

Here are some of them:

  • Fall for someone
  • Develop feelings
  • Get emotionally attached
  • Become smitten
  • Grow fond of someone
  • Become infatuated with
  • Find yourself caring for
  • Start having feelings for

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Catch Feelings":

  • What does "catch feelings" mean?

"Catch feelings" refers to the unexpected development of romantic or emotional feelings for someone, often in a situation where such feelings were not initially anticipated.

  • How can I use "catch feelings" in a sentence?

You can use "catch feelings" in any discussion about unexpected emotional or romantic involvement. For instance, "We were just friends at first, but I started to catch feelings."

  • Where does the idiom "catch feelings" come from?

The idiom "catch feelings" is believed to have originated in American English, with its use becoming increasingly common in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, particularly in the context of relationships and dating.

  • Can "catch feelings" refer to feelings other than romantic?

While it can technically apply to other strong feelings that arise suddenly, "catch feelings" is most commonly used in the context of romantic or emotional feelings for someone.

  • Does "catch feelings" imply the feelings are short-lived or not serious?

Not necessarily. While the phrase is often used to describe a fleeting infatuation or crush, catching feelings for someone can also lead to a meaningful, long-term relationship. The intensity or permanence of the feelings depends on the context and people involved.

  • Is the idiom negative or positive?

Neither. "Catch feelings" is neutral; it simply describes the act of developing unexpected feelings. The positivity or negativity comes from the context in which these feelings occur.

  • Can "catch feelings" occur in non-romantic relationships?

While "catch feelings" usually refers to romantic emotions, it can potentially apply to unexpected feelings in non-romantic relationships, such as surprise friendships or familial bonds.

  • Is "catch feelings" slang or proper English?

"Catch feelings" originated in informal English and qualifies as slang or idiomatic speech. While slang terms often go in and out of style quickly, "catch feelings" has become popular enough to be recognized in mainstream English and dictionaries.

  • Can "catch feelings" lead to a serious relationship?

Potentially. "Catch feelings" just refers to the development of romantic emotions – it does not predict the outcome or future of the relationship.

  • Is "catch feelings" a universal concept?

While the phrase itself is English, the concept of unexpectedly developing romantic or emotional feelings is a universal human experience, recognizable across different cultures and languages.

Final Thoughts About "Catch Feelings"

The idiom "catch feelings" refers to the unforeseen development of romantic or emotional feelings for someone. It often occurs in situations where these feelings were not initially anticipated, such as friendships or casual dating scenarios.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The term reflects the unexpected evolution of emotional or romantic feelings towards someone.
  • The expression is typically used in casual, informal conversations, especially when discussing personal relationships or dating.
  • "Catch feelings" does not inherently carry negative connotations; it simply describes an emotional phenomenon.

This idiom highlights the sometimes unpredictable and surprising nature of human emotions, especially in the context of romantic relationships.

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