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[kuh n-vuhls]
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verb (used with object), con·vulsed, con·vuls·ing.
  1. to shake violently; agitate.
  2. to cause to shake violently with laughter, anger, pain, etc.
  3. to cause to suffer violent, spasmodic contractions of the muscles.

Origin of convulse

1635–45; < Latin convulsus past participle of convellere to shatter, tear loose, equivalent to con- con- + vul- (variant stem of vellere to pull, tear) + -sus, variant of -tus past participle suffix
Related formscon·vuls·ed·ly, adverbcon·vuls·i·ble, adjectivecon·vuls·i·bil·i·ty, nounun·con·vulsed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for convulse


  1. (tr) to shake or agitate violently
  2. (tr) to cause (muscles) to undergo violent spasms or contractions
  3. (intr often foll by with) informal to shake or be overcome (with violent emotion, esp laughter)
  4. (tr) to disrupt the normal running of (a country, etc)student riots have convulsed India
Derived Formsconvulsive, adjectiveconvulsively, adverbconvulsiveness, noun

Word Origin

C17: from Latin convulsus, from convellere to tear up, from vellere to pluck, pull
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for convulse


1640s, transitive; 1680s, intransitive; from Latin convulsus, past participle of convellere (transitive only) "to pull away, to pull this way and that, wrench," hence "to weaken, overthrow, destroy" (see convulsion). Related: Convulsed (1630s); convulsing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

convulse in Medicine


  1. To affect or be affected with irregular and involuntary muscular contractions; throw or be thrown into convulsions.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.