hys·​te·​ria | \ hi-ˈster-ē-ə How to pronounce hysteria (audio) , -ˈstir- How to pronounce hysteria (audio) \

Definition of hysteria

1 : a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychogenic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral (see visceral sense 4) functions
2 : behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess political hysteria The plague had caused mass hysteria in the village.

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Examples of hysteria in a Sentence

A few of the children began to scream, and soon they were all caught up in the hysteria. Wartime hysteria led to many unfair accusations of treachery. The spreading of the disease caused mass hysteria in the village.
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Recent Examples on the Web But those who feed ravenously at the trough of fear can also wind up full of cowardice and hysteria. Washington Post, "The objective reasonableness of fear," 13 Apr. 2021 The combination of hysteria and hostility with which the media are treating Ron DeSantis ought to be instructive to anyone who imagined that the unprecedented animus flung at President Trump had much to do with his unique characteristics. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Promise of Ron DeSantis," 12 Apr. 2021 Yet some doctors argue that long Covid is psychological in origin—the result of mass hysteria. Yochai Re’em, WSJ, "The Science Behind ‘Long Covid’ and the Desire to Wish It Away," 30 Mar. 2021 Maybe not directly, but his dismissive attitude has sent a message to those beneath him that equity is either so much overblown woke hysteria or blinded them to the very basic steps the NCAA should be taking. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Mark Emmert must go if women are to get equitable treatment from NCAA," 22 Mar. 2021 Even more striking is his Liebestod, in Liszt’s arrangement—a free, rhapsodic, surprisingly graceful account, in keeping with Proust’s tendency to cherish Wagner on his own terms, without grandiose hysteria. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Conjuring the Music of Proust’s Salons," 15 Mar. 2021 Her mom went into full-on panic mode in March, blaming the pandemic on 5G towers and chemists, so why add to her hysteria? Saahil Desai, The Atlantic, "The People Who Pretend They Never Had COVID-19," 17 Jan. 2021 Such thinking has received scant scientific reinforcement since sociologists, psychologists, and religious studies scholars first started pushing back on anti-cult hysteria in the US decades ago. Michael Schulson/undark, Popular Science, "Can you ‘deprogram’ people who join cults?," 4 Mar. 2021 Of helping our loved ones think about what's actually stayed the same, finding proof for the fact that maybe some of that all or nothing thinking, that's leading to our helplessness or our panic or hysteria. Arkansas Democrat-gazette, Arkansas Online, "Coping with Covid virtual panel transcription," 9 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hysteria.' 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 hysteria

1772, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hysteria

New Latin, from English hysteric, adjective, from Latin hystericus, from Greek hysterikos, from hystera womb; from the Greek notion that hysteria was peculiar to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus

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Time Traveler for hysteria

Time Traveler

The first known use of hysteria was in 1772

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Statistics for hysteria

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hysteria.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hysteria. Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for hysteria



English Language Learners Definition of hysteria

: a state in which your emotions (such as fear) are so strong that you behave in an uncontrolled way
: a situation in which many people behave or react in an extreme or uncontrolled way because of fear, anger, etc.


hys·​te·​ria | \ hi-ˈster-ē-ə How to pronounce hysteria (audio) \

Kids Definition of hysteria

: a state in which emotions (as fear or joy) are so strong that a person acts in an uncontrolled way


hys·​te·​ria | \ his-ˈter-ē-ə How to pronounce hysteria (audio) , -ˈtir- How to pronounce hysteria (audio) \

Medical Definition of hysteria

1a : a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions without an organic basis
b : a similar condition in domestic animals
2 : behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess

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