pa·​ral·​y·​sis | \ pə-ˈra-lə-səs How to pronounce paralysis (audio) \
plural paralyses\ pə-​ˈra-​lə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce paralyses (audio) \

Definition of paralysis

1 : complete or partial loss of function especially when involving the motion or sensation in a part of the body
2 : loss of the ability to move
3 : a state of powerlessness or incapacity to act

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Synonyms for paralysis



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Examples of paralysis in a Sentence

The disease causes a paralysis of the legs. The whole country is in a state of paralysis. They are trying to end the political paralysis that has been gripping the country.
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Recent Examples on the Web

They would be inserted into the brain to help people with locked-in syndrome or paralysis communicate via a computer or phone. Dominic Rech, CNN, "Brain implants could give governments and companies power to read your mind, scientists warn," 10 Sep. 2019 Nevertheless, the threat, along with existing sanctions on Syria, has brought about an almost total paralysis of Damascus’ ability to trade. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, "U.S. punishes Syria with sanctions — but allies like Jordan also pay a price," 10 Sep. 2019 Moving a person with back or spinal injury can result in permanent paralysis or other serious complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, "Kevin Hart: 911 call from his home shows more than an hour’s delay in seeking medical help after car crash," 5 Sep. 2019 What to Download: The House Ever experience the horrible paralysis of not knowing which new restaurant to check out or what food event to attend? Sarah Cook, al, "Birmingham magazine’s culture picks for July," 26 July 2019 Neuralink does have a proposal for a study, focusing on patients who suffer paralysis of all four limbs because of a spinal cord injury. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Elon Musk Wants to Upgrade Our Brains to Compete With AI," 17 July 2019 That somebody is Congress and the time is now — before governments lapse into even deeper paralysis during the 2020 election campaigns. STAT, "Stop persecuting doctors for legitimately prescribing opioids for chronic pain," 28 June 2019 India has not had such a poor run since early 2013 (see chart), during a period of policy paralysis that helped destroy the previous government. The Economist, "India’s government is scrambling to revive the economy," 31 Aug. 2019 In the past few years, custom wheelchairs to assist pets and even wild animals that have damaged or missing limbs or have other problems, such as arthritis, paralysis and degenerative muscle diseases, have become increasingly common. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, "Hobble, hobble! This Michigan turkey needs a custom wheelchair," 27 Aug. 2019

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

1525, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paralysis

Latin, from Greek, from paralyein to loosen, disable, from para- + lyein to loosen — more at lose

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Statistics for paralysis

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for paralysis

The first known use of paralysis was in 1525

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English Language Learners Definition of paralysis

medical : a condition in which you are unable to move or feel all or part of your body
formal : a state of being unable to function, act, or move


pa·​ral·​y·​sis | \ pə-ˈra-lə-səs How to pronounce paralysis (audio) \
plural paralyses\ -​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of paralysis

: loss of the ability to move all or part of the body (as from disease or injury)


pa·​ral·​y·​sis | \ pə-ˈral-ə-səs How to pronounce paralysis (audio) \
plural paralyses\ -​ˌsēz How to pronounce paralyses (audio) \

Medical Definition of paralysis

: complete or partial loss of function especially when involving the power of motion or of sensation in any part of the body — see hemiplegia, paraplegia, paresis sense 1

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Comments on paralysis

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to spread over or through

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