noun par·ox·ysm \ˈpa-rək-ˌsi-zəm also pə-ˈräk-\

Definition of paroxysm

  1. 1 :  a fit, attack, or sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms (as of a disease) :  convulsion a paroxysm of coughing convulsed … in the paroxysms of an epileptic seizure — Thomas Hardy

  2. 2 :  a sudden violent emotion or action :  outburst a paroxysm of rage a paroxysm of laughter


play \ˌpa-rək-ˈsiz-məl also pə-ˌräk-\ adjective

paroxysm was our Word of the Day on 09/30/2015. Hear the podcast!

Examples of paroxysm in a sentence

  1. He went into paroxysms of laughter.

  2. a paroxysm of laughter greeted the pratfall

Did You Know?

Paroxysm didn't just burst onto the scene recently; its roots go back to ancient Greek. The word ultimately derives from the Greek paroxynein, which means "to stimulate." Oxynein, a parent of paroxynein, means "to provoke" or "to sharpen" and comes from oxys, a Greek word for "sharp." (That root also underlies the word oxygen.) In its earliest known English uses in the 15th century, paroxysm denoted agitation or intensification of a disease or its symptoms. (A still-used example of that sense is "a paroxysm of coughing.") Additionally, paroxysm soon took on a broader sense referring to an outburst, especially a dramatic physical or emotional one.

Origin and Etymology of paroxysm

Middle English paroxism, from Medieval Latin paroxysmus, from Greek paroxysmos, from paroxynein to stimulate, from para- + oxynein to provoke, from oxys sharp — more at oxygen

First Known Use: 15th century

PAROXYSM Defined for English Language Learners


noun par·ox·ysm \ˈpa-rək-ˌsi-zəm also pə-ˈräk-\

Definition of paroxysm for English Language Learners

  • medical : a sudden attack or increase of symptoms of a disease (such as pain, coughing, shaking, etc.) that often occurs again and again

  • : a sudden strong feeling or expression of emotion that cannot be controlled

Medical Dictionary


play play
noun par·ox·ysm \ˈpar-ək-ˌsiz-əm also pə-ˈräk-\

Medical Definition of paroxysm

  1. 1:  a sudden attack or spasm (as of a disease)

  2. 2:  a sudden recurrence of symptoms or an intensification of existing symptoms pain occurred in frequent paroxysmsTherapeutic Notes

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capable of being understood in two ways

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