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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Got me shell shock, feel less of a man, violated ya feel me? Jason Dearen,, 19 Nov. 2021 His dissertation explored the emergence of neurology in the U.K.—a history that included the study of shell shock and head injury in the First and Second World Wars. Ingfei Chen, The New Yorker, 11 Feb. 2023 Long before the official recognition of PTSD in 1980, veterans quietly suffered with uncompensated disabilities related to combat stress known as shell shock for much of their post-military lives. Jason A. Higgins, The Conversation, 17 Aug. 2022 Consumers have been through a lot in a short amount of time, to say the least, and a degree of shell shock cannot be ruled out. Michele Markham, Forbes, 15 Aug. 2022 The four-year nightmare, which started three years before the U.S. got involved, engulfed dozens of nations, redrew the map of Europe and introduced the world to new horrors such as chemical weapons and shell shock. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2022 Wynne, who died in December 2021, often told the story of a soldier who was suffering so badly from PTSD (then known as shell shock) who had not spoken or even reacted to others, in months. Brenda Cain, cleveland, 9 Mar. 2022 As documented by the humanitarian NGO Proliska, which is monitoring the conflict zone, one of the shells struck a kindergarten, leaving two employees with shell shock—but not injuring any of the children that were there. David Meyer, Fortune, 17 Feb. 2022 But the disorder has evolved since the days of shell shock. Eleanor Cummins, The Atlantic, 18 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

Word History

First Known Use

1915, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of shell shock was in 1915

Dictionary Entries Near shell shock

Cite this Entry

“Shell shock.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition

shell shock

: any of numerous nervous conditions appearing in soldiers exposed to modern warfare

Medical Definition

shell shock


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