\ ə-ˈmək, -ˈmäk \
variants: or less commonly \ ə-​ˈmək \

Definition of amok

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malaysian culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior occurring worldwide in numerous countries and cultures


variants: or less commonly amuck

Definition of amok (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : in a violently raging, wild, or uncontrolled manner used in the phrase run amok rioters running amok in the streetsConditions had allowed extremism to run amok.
2 : in a murderously frenzied state


variants: or less commonly amuck

Definition of amok (Entry 3 of 3)

: possessed with or motivated by a murderous or violently uncontrollable frenzy

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Did You Know?


Amok first entered English in the mid-1600s as a noun meaning "murderous frenzy." In the 16th century, visitors to Southeast Asia first reported on a psychiatric disorder known in Malay as amok. Typically, the afflicted person (usually a Malay man) attacked bystanders in a frenzy, killing everyone in sight until he collapsed or was himself killed. By the 17th century English speakers had adopted both the noun and adverb forms of amok, as well as the phrase run amok, a translation of the Malay verb mengamok. The psychopathological behavior the noun amok refers to is now recognized to occur worldwide in numerous countries and cultures. As for the adverb, time has mitigated its violent nature; nowadays it usually describes the actions of the unruly and not the murderous.

Examples of amok in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Metu’s time running amok for the Spurs at Summer League appears done. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Metu’s misfortune means missed opportunity for Spurs’ second-rounder," 12 July 2018 Determining whether my emotions are realistic or a sign of my mind running amok helps me respond appropriately. Meryl Davids Landau, Good Housekeeping, "3 Women Share the Moment They Knew They Had Depression — And How They Moved Forward," 12 June 2018 Elsewhere around the country, run-amok tax-cutting for the wealthy business elite — in other state capitals and most recently in Washington — have benefited hedge-fund managers and the barons of private equity. Will Bunch,, "Stephen Schwarzman's billionaire lottery won't save public schools. But Oklahoma might | Will Bunch," 8 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

For whatever reason, the legal eagles at the Disney/Lucasfilm trust have stood back and let custom saber makers run amok. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Hands-on with a $434 replica lightsaber: May the dork be with you," 25 Dec. 2018 How has something so profane, so intoxicated and so clothing-resistant continued to ride its unique wave in a world miles less accepting of this kind of sandy fun run amok? Bryce Miller,, "Cover your ears: Over-the-Line evolves, but the raunchy team names remain," 14 July 2018 Great performances ran amok this season, from Killing Eve's Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh to Keri Russell in The Americans. Rebecca Farley,, "The Full List Of 2018 Emmy Nominations Has Arrived," 12 July 2018 Brill blames the tortoise-like pace of government rule-writing on due process run amok. New York Times, "America Has Gone Off the Rails. Steven Brill Sees Ways to Get It Back on Track.," 2 July 2018 At the opposite end of where the desperate figure of Lionel Messi stood, a player who was just eight years of age when Messi set El Clásico alight with a hattrick at 19-years-old was running amok: Kylian Mbappe., "Kylian Mbappé's Announces Himself on the World Stage as Cristiano Ronaldo & Lionel Messi Bow Out," 2 July 2018 Parents dealing with kids running amok around the house this summer can rest easy in knowing one thing: School will soon be back in session. Chris Sims, Indianapolis Star, "Here’s when schools start around Indianapolis," 25 June 2018 The movie’s cast arrived at Jurassic Park, the island research station where dinosaurs ended up running amok, in a helicopter that descended along the face of Jurassic Falls. Jay Jones,, "It just takes a helicopter hop (and some cash) to visit the real Jurassic Falls on Kauai," 22 June 2018 Officials elsewhere in the West may not share Inslee’s enthusiasm, particularly in conservative states that depend on coal mining, places for which California embodies liberalism run amok. David R. Baker,, "Despite fear of Trump, California considers sharing control of power grid," 16 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'amok.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of amok


1665, in the meaning defined above


1672, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1944, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for amok

Noun, Adverb, and Adjective

Malay amok

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Time Traveler for amok

The first known use of amok was in 1665

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More Definitions for amok


variants: or amuck \ ə-​ˈmək, -​ˈmäk \

Kids Definition of amok

: in a wild or uncontrolled manner
Hint: This adverb is usually used in the phrase “run amok” or “run amuck.”


\ ə-ˈmək, -ˈmäk \
variants: also amuck \ -​ˈmək \

Medical Definition of amok

: an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malaysian culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior occurring worldwide in numerous countries and cultures Amok is a condition in South Asian and Pacific Islander cultures when a person attacks and tries to kill others.— Christopher A. Kearney and Timothy J. Trull, Abnormal Psychology and Life, 2011 … research suggests that amok can and does occur in other countries, such as Laos, the Philippines, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico, and even the United States. Certain acts of random violence (e.g., school shootings and office shootings) may actually be presentations of an American version of amok. — Michael Gomez, in Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology, 2006

Other Words from amok

amok also amuck adjective or adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on amok

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with amok

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for amok

Spanish Central: Translation of amok

Nglish: Translation of amok for Spanish Speakers

Comments on amok

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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