pri·​a·​pism ˈprī-ə-ˌpi-zəm How to pronounce priapism (audio)
: an abnormal often painful persistent erection of the penis

Examples of priapism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But for those with two such genes, the potential complications include acute pain episodes, acute chest syndrome, strokes, priapism, jaundice, numb chin syndrome, an enlarged spleen, leg ulcers, and damaged blood cells in the retina, which can lead to blindness. Krithika Varagur, Harper's Magazine, 10 July 2023 Scientists have found that their venom can cause priapism: painful erections that can last hours. Christie Wilcox, Discover Magazine, 20 Apr. 2015 Survivors tell of experiencing painful erections that last for more than four hours---a medical ailment known as priapism. Patrick Morgan, Discover Magazine, 5 Mar. 2011 Portis’s diffident, modestly gallant characters were a world away from the marital bonfires and priapisms of other male writers of his crop—Roth, Updike, Yates. Wells Tower, The New Yorker, 20 Feb. 2020 Lastly, and saddest of all, the Corvette will lose its hood of goodly length, the conspicuous priapism that has defined the mission for 65 years. Dan Neil, WSJ, 28 Nov. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'priapism.' 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 priapisme, from Middle French, ultimately from Greek Priapos (traditionally portrayed in Greco-Roman art with an erect penis)

First Known Use

1601, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of priapism was in 1601

Dictionary Entries Near priapism

Cite this Entry

“Priapism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Medical Definition


pri·​a·​pism ˈprī-ə-ˌpiz-əm How to pronounce priapism (audio)
: an abnormal, more or less persistent, and often painful erection of the penis
especially : one caused by disease rather than sexual desire

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