trau·​ma | \ ˈtrȯ-mə How to pronounce trauma (audio) also ˈtrau̇- How to pronounce trauma (audio) \
plural traumas also traumata\ ˈtrȯ-​mə-​tə also  ˈtrau̇-​ How to pronounce traumata (audio) \

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web This new show promises far less trauma than Gadsby’s last one, but just as many laughs. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "Hamilton Is Coming to Disney+ Very Soon," 14 May 2020 Many jobs can cause employee burnout, but the effect of having to deal with the absolute worst cruelty humanity has to offer for 40 hours a week can go well beyond burnout and leave employees with serious mental health traumas. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "Facebook settles moderator suit for $52M as hate speech on site increases," 13 May 2020 Even before the emergence of Covid-19, kids across the country were experiencing significant stressors and trauma. Paula Magee, STAT, "Child abuse is one of many unseen harms from shutting down America’s schools," 7 May 2020 At the heart of this extreme withdrawal, as far as anyone can tell, are the anxiety and trauma surrounding the threat of deportation. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Wake Up on Mars': Film Review | Tribeca 2020," 17 Apr. 2020 Forensic medicine personnel would be dealing with injuries and trauma on living people. Popular Science, "Catching COVID-19 from a dead body is possible, but there’s no proof it’s happened yet," 15 Apr. 2020 The miscellaneous category included things like head trauma or seizures. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "A New Theory for Unexplained Whitewater Deaths," 11 Apr. 2020 The Hawaiian experience is the very definition of intergenerational trauma. Doug Herman, Smithsonian Magazine, "Shutting Down Hawai‘i: A Historical Perspective on Epidemics in the Islands," 25 Mar. 2020 What: The story of the terror and trauma of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with a script adapted by director Terrence Spivey. Greg Burnett, cleveland, "Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland produces the play ‘Ma’afa’ which examines the slave trade and its horrors," 14 Feb. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for trauma

Time Traveler

The first known use of trauma was circa 1693

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Statistics for trauma

Last Updated

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Trauma.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for trauma


How to pronounce trauma (audio) How to pronounce trauma (audio)

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 How to pronounce trauma (audio) , ˈtrau̇- How to pronounce trauma (audio) \
plural traumas also traumata\ -​mət-​ə How to pronounce traumata (audio) \

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

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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

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