par·​a·​lyze ˈper-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce paralyze (audio)
paralyzed; paralyzing

transitive verb

: to affect with paralysis
The snake's venom paralyzed the mouse.
: to make powerless or ineffective
A strike would paralyze the industry.
: unnerve
the paralyzing thing is the uncertainty Evelyn Whitehead
: stun, stupefy
I would paralyze the empire with the news! Rudyard Kipling
: to bring to an end : prevent, destroy
deadlock paralyzed action F. A. Ogg & Harold Zink
paralyzation noun
paralyzer noun
paralyzingly adverb

Example Sentences

The snake's venom paralyzed the mouse. The air strikes have paralyzed the city's transportation system. The company was paralyzed by debt.
Recent Examples on the Web The protests threaten to paralyze much of the country, with general strikes spreading to 24 cities in Western Iran this week. Rhoda Kwan, NBC News, 21 Sep. 2022 The virus then has the ability to mutate and infect others—and potentially paralyze them—after contact with the contaminated sewage. Madeline Halpert, Forbes, 12 Aug. 2022 The toad's venom can paralyze or even kill dogs and other predators, according to the Oakland Zoo. CBS News, 8 Nov. 2022 The potential work stoppage could paralyze the nation's supply chain and transportation rail service as the U.S. enters peak holiday season. Max Zahn, ABC News, 27 Oct. 2022 Unionized workers from five Atlantic City casinos voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to authorize a strike, teeing up a labor fight that could paralyze a storied East Coast tourist hub with the summer travel season well underway. Aaron Gregg, Washington Post, 16 June 2022 There’s another intriguing possibility: The lack of skeleton might be related to some kind of stinging protection system, like that used by present-day anemones that paralyze prey with stinging cells on the tentacles that surround their mouths. Samuel Zamora, The Conversation, 24 May 2022 In the years since, researchers have also discovered that the injections, which temporarily paralyze the masseter muscles responsible for grinding and clenching, can reduce the frequency and intensity of bruxism. Ali Francis, The Atlantic, 18 Oct. 2022 The risk, of course, is that competing priorities will paralyze any of these initiatives from moving forward. Euan Davis, Forbes, 3 May 2022 See More

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

Word History


French paralyser, back-formation from paralysie paralysis, from Latin paralysis

First Known Use

1763, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of paralyze was in 1763

Dictionary Entries Near paralyze

Cite this Entry

“Paralyze.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



par·​a·​lyze ˈpar-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce paralyze (audio)
paralyzed; paralyzing
: to affect with paralysis
: to make powerless or unable to act, function, or move

Medical Definition


transitive verb

variants or British paralyse
paralyzed or British paralysed; paralyzing or British paralysing
: to affect with paralysis
paralyzation noun
or British paralysation

More from Merriam-Webster on paralyze

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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