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

Definition of paroxysm

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


play \ˌper-ək-ˈsiz-məl, ˌpa-rək- 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

Recent Examples of paroxysm from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paroxysm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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

PAROXYSM Defined for English Language Learners



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


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

medical Definition of paroxysm

1 : a sudden attack or spasm (as of a disease)
2 : a sudden recurrence of symptoms or an intensification of existing symptoms
  • pain occurred in frequent paroxysms
  • Therapeutic Notes

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up paroxysm? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


the quality or fact of being simultaneous

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's That From? A Word Origin Quiz

  • turris-babel-by-athanasius-kircher
  • What language gave the word robot to English?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things 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!