par·​a·​lyze ˈper-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce paralyze (audio)
paralyzed; paralyzing

transitive verb

: to affect with paralysis
The snake's venom paralyzed the mouse.
: to make powerless or ineffective
A strike would paralyze the industry.
: unnerve
the paralyzing thing is the uncertaintyEvelyn Whitehead
: stun, stupefy
I would paralyze the empire with the news!Rudyard Kipling
: to bring to an end : prevent, destroy
deadlock paralyzed actionF. A. Ogg & Harold Zink
paralyzation noun
paralyzer noun
paralyzingly adverb

Examples of paralyze in a Sentence

The snake's venom paralyzed the mouse. The air strikes have paralyzed the city's transportation system. The company was paralyzed by debt.
Recent Examples on the Web Pamela Pinckney hired the South Carolina lawyer after a car wreck in 2009 and again after her son, who was paralyzed in the crash, died. Erik Ortiz, NBC News, 24 Nov. 2023 The House was paralyzed without a speaker and in theory can start working again. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Oct. 2023 Republican hopefuls weigh in on new Speaker Mike Johnson Mike Johnson's election by his Republican colleagues in the House ended three weeks in which the chamber didn't have a leader -- paralyzing half of Congress. ABC News, 25 Oct. 2023 Gone was the caution that had paralyzed him during his Presidential bids. Michael Luo, The New Yorker, 23 Oct. 2023 An engineer trying to keep the electricity working at the neonatal unit was struck in the neck and paralyzed, Abusada said. Margherita Stancati, WSJ, 11 Nov. 2023 The bullet severed her spinal chord, paralyzing her from the waist down. Hannah Wiley, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2023 Detectives located two 9 mm shell casings at the scene and evidence of projectile strikes to both the back of the car's driver's seat headrest and the seat back of a wheelchair thought to belong to Jenkins Jr., who was paralyzed from the waist down, the affidavit states. Grant Lancaster, Arkansas Online, 5 Nov. 2023 The enduring friendship between Daniel Radcliffe and his Harry Potter stunt double, who was paralyzed during a stunt while filming, is the focus of the upcoming documentary David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, which premieres on HBO later this month. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 1 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French paralyser, back-formation from paralysie paralysis, from Latin paralysis

First Known Use

1763, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of paralyze was in 1763

Dictionary Entries Near paralyze

Cite this Entry

“Paralyze.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


par·​a·​lyze ˈpar-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce paralyze (audio)
paralyzed; paralyzing
: to affect with paralysis
: to make powerless or unable to act, function, or move

Medical Definition


transitive verb
variants or British paralyse
paralyzed or British paralysed; paralyzing or British paralysing
: to affect with paralysis
paralyzation noun
or British paralysation

More from Merriam-Webster on paralyze

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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