I'm learning electrolysis and we learned that the positive ions go to the cathode which is where reduction takes place. However, I got confused because when you learn about ionic bonding, the positive ions are the ones that lose electrons. And we learned that reduction is the GAIN of electrons. These two things clash. Can somebody please explain this to me?
Positively charged ions wouldn't usually lose more electrons, they've already lost some.
The positively charge ions you have are called cations. These go to the cathode, which is negatively charged, as opposites attract. So, positive ions go to an area of negative charge and gain electrons, i.e. reduction takes place.
Now how can we negate any confusion between cathode and anode (it's very easy to get mixed up)?
Let's examine the word cathode a little more closely. Essentially there are two parts, 'cath' and 'ode'. The key part here is the ending of the word, which is 'ode'. The Greek root of this means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, way. So as long as you can remember that 'cath' usually refers to a positive and 'an' to a negative, you can put the two together. Cathode meaning 'positive-way', as in positive things go this way.