shell shock


Definition of shell shock

: post-traumatic stress disorder occurring under wartime conditions (as combat) that cause intense stress : battle fatigue, combat fatigue In the receiving ward he found a patient shivering on his bunk with a diagnosis—in this case accurate—of severe shell shock.— Albert E. Cowdrey A Veterans Administration psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Ewald, has reckoned that some 700,000 Vietnam veterans have suffered from various forms of "post-traumatic stress syndrome," the modern term for what was called "shell shock" in World War I and "battle fatigue" in World War II.— Stanley Karnow

Examples of shell shock in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But the disorder has evolved since the days of shell shock. Eleanor Cummins, The Atlantic, 18 Oct. 2021 With these weapons came an ever-expanding vocabulary to depict their hellish consequences, from shell shock to radiation poisoning to Agent Orange Syndrome. David Oshinsky, The New York Review of Books, 13 Feb. 2020 The violent legacy of World War I, its brutalization of an entire generation, is palpable in both the violence in Berlin's streets and the literal shell shock afflicting multiple male characters: No recent American trauma can compare. Ross Douthat New York Times, Star Tribune, 30 Mar. 2021 Ames had trouble sleeping and fell into a kind of shell shock that reminded her daughter of what many people experienced after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. J.d. Morris, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Feb. 2021 Over the spring and summer, restaurants that survived the initial shell shock of Covid-19 pivoted to takeout and outdoor dining. NBC News, 29 Nov. 2020 Seemingly overnight, the field of war psychiatry emerged and a new term—shell shock—appeared to describe a range of mental injuries, from facial tics to an inability to speak. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, 16 June 2020 Dirk Bogarde plays the officer assigned to defend the young man, who obviously is suffering from shell shock. Susan King, Los Angeles Times, 1 Jan. 2020 What shell shock was to the soldiers returning from World War I, unemployment and economic insecurity were to the middle and working classes. Susanna Lee, The Conversation, 1 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shell shock.' 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 shell shock

1915, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About shell shock

Time Traveler for shell shock

Time Traveler

The first known use of shell shock was in 1915

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near shell shock


shell shock


See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for shell shock

Last Updated

22 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shell shock.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for shell shock

shell shock


English Language Learners Definition of shell shock

shell shock


Medical Definition of shell shock

More from Merriam-Webster on shell shock Encyclopedia article about shell shock


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something 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!