paroxysm

noun
par·​ox·​ysm | \ ˈper-ək-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce paroxysm (audio) , ˈpa-rək- also pə-ˈräk- How to pronounce paroxysm (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from paroxysm

paroxysmal \ ˌper-​ək-​ˈsiz-​məl How to pronounce paroxysmal (audio) , ˌpa-​rək-​ also  pə-​ˌräk-​ \ adjective

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.

Examples of paroxysm in a Sentence

He went into paroxysms of laughter. a paroxysm of laughter greeted the pratfall

Recent Examples on the Web

Civilization survived that paroxysm in the prenuclear age. James Dobbins, WSJ, "History Ended in 1945," 9 Dec. 2018 The public greeted the news of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's pregnancy with paroxysms of glee, but apparently, no one is more excited than grandfather-to-be (for the fourth time!) Prince Charles. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince Charles Is Really, Really Excited About Harry & Meghan's Baby News," 16 Oct. 2018 And in these early stages, both customers and analysts appear to see the delays as normal—and preferable to combustive paroxysm. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "Never Prebook Your Return Flight From a Rocket Launch," 6 July 2018 The audience is naturally convulsed in hilarity that’s interrupted only by paroxysms of sympathy for a protagonist who doesn’t understand why life is withholding from him the happy ending everyone else in his circle seems to be enjoying. Charles Mcnulty, latimes.com, "Say 'I do' to 'Significant Other,' the rare romantic comedy with depth to match the laughs," 13 Apr. 2018 Such reconciliation echoes more and more widely in Baghdad, where residents have survived the paroxysms of violence and want to choose another way. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, "In Baghdad, a sense of home resurfaces a decade after ethnic cleansing," 2 May 2018 This alone would send many in-laws into paroxysms of joy. Amy Dickinson, chicagotribune.com, "Frisky neighbors need curtains," 19 Apr. 2018 Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the paroxysm of rioting, destruction and arson that engulfed broad sections of Washington after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post, "Fifty years ago some called D.C. ‘the colored man’s paradise.’ Then paradise erupted.," 26 Mar. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of paroxysm

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about paroxysm

Listen to Our Podcast about paroxysm

Statistics for paroxysm

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for paroxysm

The first known use of paroxysm was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for paroxysm

paroxysm

noun

English Language Learners Definition of paroxysm

medical : a sudden attack or increase of symptoms of a disease (such as pain, coughing, shaking, etc.) that often occurs again and again
formal : a sudden strong feeling or expression of emotion that cannot be controlled

paroxysm

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 paroxysmsTherapeutic Notes

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on paroxysm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with paroxysm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for paroxysm

Spanish Central: Translation of paroxysm

Nglish: Translation of paroxysm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of paroxysm for Arabic Speakers

Comments on paroxysm

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

WORD OF THE DAY

the range of authority or knowledge

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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