hy·​per·​vig·​i·​lance ˌhī-pər-ˈvi-jə-lən(t)s How to pronounce hypervigilance (audio)
variants or hyper-vigilance
: extreme or excessive vigilance : the state of being highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threat
A person suffering from PTSD may have sleep disturbances, irritability, hypervigilance, heightened startle responses and flashbacks of the original trauma.Ellen L. Bassuk et al.
One common trait among fearful fliers is hypervigilance; they often spend the entire trip watching the flight attendants, analyzing the chime system, and assessing the sounds of the engines.Nancy J. Perry

Examples of hypervigilance in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Loneliness and isolation drive unbalanced activation of the sympathetic nervous system, leading to hypervigilance, or scanning the environment for threats. Clay Marsh, Fortune Well, 15 July 2023 Visconti’s work life was not only contributing to health issues, but also to a rise in stress and hypervigilance, which significantly impacted her quality of life. Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 23 Aug. 2023 Regardless of any individual object’s identification, however, the greater question remains: Can innocuous balloon flights for scientific research coexist with a new hypervigilance from the U.S. and other nations over potential hostile intrusions into sovereign airspace? Leonard David, Scientific American, 23 Feb. 2023 Other common side effects of long incarceration are hypervigilance and social withdrawal. Annalisa Quinn, BostonGlobe.com, 5 July 2023 Jansen was unaccustomed to such hypervigilance in the students there. Rowan Ricardo Phillips, New York Times, 30 Aug. 2022 Either way, the constant hypervigilance of a painful, visible health condition can quickly leave you feeling depleted. Ashley Abramson, Allure, 7 Feb. 2022 These findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that fearful experiences can have long-lasting effects on wildlife and suggesting that post-traumatic stress disorder, with its intrusive flashback memories, hypervigilance and anxiety, is part of an ancient, evolved response to danger. Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Aug. 2021 Adults, too, are struggling with symptoms of anxiety like insomnia, hypervigilance and avoidance. Renee Ghert-Zand, sun-sentinel.com, 14 July 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hypervigilance.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1887, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hypervigilance was in 1887

Dictionary Entries Near hypervigilance

Cite this Entry

“Hypervigilance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypervigilance. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Medical Definition


hy·​per·​vig·​i·​lance -ˈvij-ə-lən(t)s How to pronounce hypervigilance (audio)
: extreme or excessive vigilance : the state of being highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threat
A person suffering from PTSD may have … hypervigilance, heightened startle responses and flashbacksEllen L. Bassuk et al.
hypervigilant adjective
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