trau·​ma | \ ˈtrȯ-mə also ˈtrau̇- \
plural traumas also traumata\ ˈtrȯ-​mə-​tə also  ˈtrau̇-​ \

Definition of trauma

1a : an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury
c : an emotional upset the personal trauma of an executive who is not living up to his own expectations— Karen W. Arenson
2 : an agent, force, or mechanism that causes trauma

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from trauma

traumatic \ trə-​ˈma-​tik , trȯ-​, trau̇-​ \ adjective
traumatically \ trə-​ˈma-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē , trȯ-​, trau̇-​ \ adverb

Did You Know?

Trauma is the Greek word for "wound". Although the Greeks used the term only for physical injuries, nowadays trauma is just as likely to refer to emotional wounds. We now know that a traumatic event can leave psychological symptoms long after any physical injuries have healed. The psychological reaction to emotional trauma now has an established name: post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It usually occurs after an extremely stressful event, such as wartime combat, a natural disaster, or sexual or physical abuse; its symptoms include depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and recurring nightmares.

Examples of trauma in a Sentence

She never fully recovered from the traumas she suffered during her childhood. She never fully recovered from the trauma of her experiences. an accident victim with severe head trauma repeated trauma to a knee The accident victim sustained multiple traumas.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Listening to the stories that are already available, instead of asking other LGBTQ people to discuss and revisit their own trauma, is the best way to truly understand this epidemic. Megan Lasher, Seventeen, "What Is Conversion Therapy?," 20 Nov. 2018 Hey, hi, hello and welcome to the 2018 midterm elections—that one time the internet turned their 2016 election trauma into self deprecating hilarious voting memes on Twitter before Americans determine the future of our country. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "The Funniest "Me Voting in 2016 vs. 2018" Memes for the Midterm Elections," 6 Nov. 2018 Regardless of the mechanism, though, the data does indicate that paternal trauma is transmittable and has real impacts on their sons' health. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Trauma of US Civil War POW experience affected the next generation," 22 Oct. 2018 The current principal of Arlington Woods Elementary School 99, Henderson will redesign the school model to further address the pervasive trauma-related and social emotional needs of its student body. Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, "Charter school grants attract national talent to Indianapolis," 25 May 2018 In emotional testimony Monday, the victim described the trauma of the incident and identified Conely in court as the person who drove into her. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Attempted murder trial underway for Kenosha man accused of striking woman with SUV in Zion," 22 May 2018 There is no concrete evidence that her version of events several decades after the fact, all through the lens of psychological trauma, is fact. WSJ, "Let’s Learn From the Kavanaugh Imbroglio," 9 Oct. 2018 Which Signs to Date vs. Avoid To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that Feelings of numbness can also be the result of trauma. Vanessa Marin, Allure, "Ask a Sex Therapist: Why Does Vaginal Sex Feel So Unsatisfying to Me?," 27 Sep. 2018 That find stands in contrast to the discovery of the graves of 13 men found in the east side of the rings, which were buried in a dignified manner with no signs of trauma. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Germany’s “Stonehenge” Reveals Evidence of Human Sacrifice," 30 June 2018

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

circa 1693, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for trauma

Greek traumat-, trauma wound, alteration of trōma; akin to Greek titrōskein to wound, tetrainein to pierce — more at throw entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about trauma

Statistics for trauma

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for trauma

The first known use of trauma was circa 1693

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for trauma



English Language Learners Definition of trauma

: a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time

medical : a serious injury to a person's body


trau·​ma | \ ˈtrȯ-mə, ˈtrau̇- \
plural traumas also traumata\ -​mət-​ə \

Medical Definition of trauma

1a : an injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent surgical trauma the intra-abdominal organs at greatest risk to athletic trauma are the spleen, pancreas, and kidney— M. R. Eichelberger — see blunt trauma
b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress or physical injury
2 : an agent, force, or mechanism that causes trauma

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on trauma

Spanish Central: Translation of trauma

Nglish: Translation of trauma for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of trauma for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about trauma

Comments on trauma

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


a complex dispute or argument

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things 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!