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[hi-ster-ee-uh, -steer-] /hɪˈstɛr i ə, -ˈstɪər-/
an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear, often characterized by irrationality, laughter, weeping, etc.
Psychoanalysis. a psychoneurotic disorder characterized by violent emotional outbreaks, disturbances of sensory and motor functions, and various abnormal effects due to autosuggestion.
Psychiatry. conversion disorder.
Compare mass hysteria.
Origin of hysteria
First recorded in 1795-1805; hyster(ic) + -ia
Related forms
subhysteria, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hysteria
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • By evening Mrs. Page had worked herself into a state bordering on hysteria.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • And she ran off, sobbing, into the little guignol, where she had an attack of hysteria.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • It is often also due to hysteria and consequently pathological.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • Mrs. Wilcox had been overtired by the shopping, and was inclined to hysteria.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • In short, you think what I saw was merely the result of woman's hysteria?

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
British Dictionary definitions for hysteria


a mental disorder characterized by emotional outbursts, susceptibility to autosuggestion, and, often, symptoms such as paralysis that mimic the effects of physical disorders See also conversion disorder
any frenzied emotional state, esp of laughter or crying
Word Origin
C19: from New Latin, from Latin hystericushysteric
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
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Word Origin and History for hysteria

1801, coined in medical Latin as an abstract noun from hysteric (see hysterical).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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hysteria in Medicine

hysteria hys·ter·i·a (hĭ-stěr'ē-ə, -stēr'-)

  1. A neurosis characterized by the presentation of a physical ailment without an organic cause, such as amnesia.

  2. Excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear.

hys·ter'ic (hĭ-stěr'ĭk) or hys·ter'i·cal (hĭ-stěr'ĭ-kəl) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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hysteria in Culture

hysteria definition

A complex neurosis in which psychological conflict is turned into physical symptoms, such as amnesia, blindness, and paralysis, that have no underlying physical cause. Early in his career, Sigmund Freud worked on hysteria.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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