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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for paralysis


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Sometimes, there’s a tendency in business to make decisions as if your life depends on it, but that can lead to analysis paralysis and loss of innovation. Srinagesh Vitthanala, Forbes, 6 Oct. 2021 Symptoms range in a spectrum of severity from a tingling sensation in the hands and feet to paralysis, said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, 14 July 2021 While most people who develop Guillain-Barré Syndrome typically fully recover, the syndrome can lead to paralysis or death in a very small number of cases. Alexander Tin, CBS News, 12 July 2021 Last month, an attack by the Russian group known as DarkSide led to paralysis of the main pipeline supplying gasoline and diesel fuel to the U.S. East Coast. Melanie Evans, WSJ, 10 June 2021 According to Rios, the 8-year-old canine was likely abandoned after her paralysis developed. Kelli Bender,, 30 Sep. 2021 Stephens had been hospitalized for three weeks because of a series of infections arising from from his paralysis, said his attorney Jack Scarola. Eileen Kelley,, 3 Sep. 2021 But Borner acknowledged that not knowing how his classmates would take to him after his paralysis was one of the more pressing uncertainties early in his rehabilitation. Washington Post, 16 Aug. 2021 Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where Lewis turned for a second opinion nearly a year after her surgery, blamed her paralysis squarely on Misra’s errors, according to her lawsuit. Los Angeles Times, 14 July 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About paralysis

Time Traveler for paralysis

Time Traveler

The first known use of paralysis was in 1525

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near paralysis



paralysis agitans

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for paralysis

Last Updated

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paralysis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for paralysis



English Language Learners Definition of paralysis

: a condition in which you are unable to move or feel all or part of your body
: 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 paralysis (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

More from Merriam-Webster on paralysis

Nglish: Translation of paralysis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of paralysis for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about paralysis


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!