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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for hysteria
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There's no rigid line of demarcation between insanity and hysteria.

    The Professor's Mystery Wells Hastings
  • Convents were often seats of frightful epidemics of hysteria.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • It was only hysteria, which girls get when they are disappointed at not marrying, and are not so young as they were.

    Red Pottage Mary Cholmondeley
  • She hesitated, laughed with the ring of hysteria, fluttered into speech.

    The Dop Doctor Clotilde Inez Mary Graves
  • The diagnosis of hysteria was established by the absence of any evidence of organic disease and by the history of the case.

    The Nervous Housewife Abraham Myerson
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 American Heritage® 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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