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[puh-ral-uh-sis] /pəˈræl ə sɪs/
noun, plural paralyses
[puh-ral-uh-seez] /pəˈræl əˌsiz/ (Show IPA)
  1. a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part, caused by injury or disease of the nerves, brain, or spinal cord.
  2. a disease characterized by this, especially palsy.
a state of helpless stoppage, inactivity, or inability to act:
The strike caused a paralysis of all shipping.
Origin of paralysis
before 1150; < Latin < Greek parálysis, equivalent to paraly-, var stem of paralȳ́ein to loosen (i.e., disable) on one side (para- para-1 + lȳ́ein to loosen) + -sis -sis; replacing Middle English paralisi(e) < Old French < Latin, as above; replacing late Old English paralisin (accusative) < Latin, as above; cf. palsy1
Related forms
nonparalysis, noun, plural nonparalyses.
semiparalysis, noun, plural semiparalyses. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for paralysis
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He was not wordy, and he tarried but a moment, yet he explained his paralysis.

    The Cavalier George Washington Cable
  • "He has had a stroke of paralysis, Madam, I fear," was the serious answer.

    The Root of Evil Thomas Dixon
  • He had a stroke of paralysis two weeks ago and for several days he has been unconscious.

    Village Life in America 1852-1872 Caroline Cowles Richards
  • M'gobo's face was all distorted like a man stricken with paralysis.

    Bones Edgar Wallace
  • Marston stood in his tracks like a man stricken by paralysis; his cigar dropped from his open mouth.

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
British Dictionary definitions for paralysis


noun (pl) -ses (-ˌsiːz)
  1. impairment or loss of voluntary muscle function or of sensation (sensory paralysis) in a part or area of the body, usually caused by a lesion or disorder of the muscles or the nerves supplying them
  2. a disease characterized by such impairment or loss; palsy
cessation or impairment of activity: paralysis of industry by strikes
Word Origin
C16: via Latin from Greek paralusis; see para-1, -lysis
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 paralysis

1520s, from Latin paralysis, from Greek paralysis "paralysis, palsy," literally "loosening," from paralyein "disable, enfeeble," from para- "beside" (see para- (1)) + lyein "loosen, untie" (see lose).

Figurative use from 1813. Earlier form was paralysie (late 14c., see palsy). Old English equivalent was lyft adl (see left (adj.)) or crypelnes "crippleness."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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paralysis in Medicine

paralysis pa·ral·y·sis (pə-rāl'ĭ-sĭs)
n. pl. pa·ral·y·ses (-sēz')

  1. Loss of power of voluntary movement in a muscle through injury or through disease of its nerve supply.

  2. Loss of sensation over a region of the body.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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paralysis in Science
Loss or impairment of voluntary movement or sensation in a part of the body, usually as a result of neurologic injury or disease.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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paralysis in Culture
paralysis [(puh-ral-uh-sis)]

The loss of voluntary movement in a body part. Paralysis results from damage to the nerves that supply the affected part of the body.

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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