\ˈspa-zəm \

Definition of spasm 

1 : an involuntary and abnormal muscular contraction

2 : a sudden violent and temporary effort, emotion, or sensation a spasm of creativity spasms of pain

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Other Words from spasm

spasm intransitive verb

Examples of spasm in a Sentence

a disease that causes muscle spasms He was racked with coughing spasms. She was suffering spasms of guilt.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The developments offered a deeper look into how orchestrated the events leading up to the attack on Lesandro were, helping investigators understand a spasm of tit-for-tat street justice that he was engulfed by. New York Times, "Two More Suspects Arrested in Slaying of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, Bronx Teenager," 4 July 2018 But as the weather warmed here this week — Chicago endured the fourth-coldest April on record this year but saw highs reach into the 80s Wednesday — the city has seen a spasm of violence. Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY, "Spring in Chicago: As weather warms, 40 people shot in the city since Monday," 3 May 2018 With Sri Lanka under a state of emergency after a spasm of anti-Muslim bloodshed, lawyer Jeevanee Kariyawasam went on Facebook to complain. Shashank Bengali,, "Muslims faced hatred and violence in Sri Lanka. Then Facebook came along and made things worse," 29 Mar. 2018 More than anything, the chaos of 1968 was exemplified by two seismic spasms of gunfire, just nine weeks apart. Brandon Griggs, CNN, "The most turbulent time in modern American history (it's not now)," 18 May 2018 But in the ensuing months, the Mount Dora school and residence was beset by new spasms of violence both by staff and residents. Carol Marbin Miller And Monique O. Madan, miamiherald, "After years of abuse and violence, 'house of horrors' for disabled might finally close | Miami Herald," 10 May 2018 Stanley Johnson missed his second consecutive game with back spasms. Dana Gauruder, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Pistons snap losing skid with win over tanking Chicago Bulls," 9 Mar. 2018 President Donald Trump says or does something that triggers a spasm of outrage. Jeremy W. Peters, Anchorage Daily News, "Numb to outrage, Republican voters feel a deepening bond to Trump," 24 June 2018 Over the weekend Russia's 'Useful Idiot' in the White House sent out such a spasm of dumb tweets, maybe he should be tested for doping too. Jeff Darcy,, "Parkland students target of smears: Darcy cartoon," 22 Feb. 2018

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

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First Known Use of spasm

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for spasm

Middle English spasme, from Anglo-French espasme, from Latin spasmus, from Greek spasmos, from span to draw, pull

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Dictionary Entries near spasm


spar varnish




spasm band


Statistics for spasm

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spasm

The first known use of spasm was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for spasm



English Language Learners Definition of spasm

: a sudden uncontrolled and often painful tightening of a muscle

: a sudden and usually brief occurrence of something you cannot control


\ˈspa-zəm \

Kids Definition of spasm

1 : a sudden uncontrolled and often painful tightening of muscles back spasms

2 : a sudden, strong, and temporary effort, emotion, or outburst a spasm of coughing a spasm of guilt


\ˈspaz-əm \

Medical Definition of spasm 

1 : an involuntary and abnormal contraction of muscle or muscle fibers or of a hollow organ (as an artery, the colon, or the esophagus) that consists largely of involuntary muscle fibers

2 : the state or condition of a muscle or organ affected with spasms the renal artery went into spasm

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More from Merriam-Webster on spasm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spasm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spasm

Spanish Central: Translation of spasm

Nglish: Translation of spasm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spasm for Arabic Speakers

Comments on spasm

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a nest or breeding place

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